Community navigators are playing increasingly crucial roles in the Canadian healthcare landscape, and are key for improving service access for individuals looking for care. Community navigators, or care coordinators, are highly skilled in connecting clients with the resources they need to keep them healthy, independent and socialized in their communities. These navigators also often become a valuable resource for busy physicians who need help arranging community support services or social prescriptions for their patients.
Community navigators are required to have a deep understanding of the available local resources that address the social determinants of health and can help reduce hospital visits. Historically, navigators have kept binders of community service information at their desk, filled with pamphlets and notes about local providers. The knowledge of what services are available where, who is eligible and how to access the service, only came from experience. Digital service navigation tools are now providing navigators with a wealth of information at their fingertips, and the ability to easily search for local services from a predefined set of service categories, such as Meals on Wheels, Adult Day Programs, Counselling or Social Activities. Relevant search results can be automatically updated by the community providers, so the information available to navigators never gets out of date. These living service directories are providing Ontario Health Teams with 24/7 patient navigation resources, ensuring that community members are also able to self-navigate across local services from a public facing website.
But service navigation is just one part of the role of a community navigator. True and valuable navigation also includes connecting the client with the chosen service, through a transfer or referral. There are several ways transfers can be transacted, including warm, hot and booked transfers.
During a warm transfer, a navigator provides the client with the contact information for a recommended service. If the navigator is speaking to the client on the phone, the navigator may route the call and connect the client to the service provider’s phone line. This often results in the client being put on the spot to leave a voicemail where they briefly outline their request for service and await a callback.
Some warm transfers may include a workflow where the navigator can send a referral to the community service provider, either via phone, fax or other means of communication. In these cases, clients are still uncertain about who is going to contact them and when. For example, if a referral is faxed, there’s no way of knowing it has been received by the right person at the service organization.
In contrast, a hot transfer is when the community navigator has the ability to send an electronic referral to the target service provider on behalf of the client. The navigator can complete an eReferral form that collects the required information on the client at the time of the referral. This ensures that the provider has exactly what they need in order to proceed with the intake process for this client. When a navigator has access to an eReferral system, they can also receive updates on the client’s referral outcomes, helping to close the loop on the client’s care journey. By connecting clients with the right service provider in a timely manner, community navigators can help improve health outcomes and follow up if more action is needed.
At Caredove, we believe that an eReferral system paired with online appointment booking offers the hottest transfer method possible. A booked transfer allows the navigator to easily schedule a client intake appointment with receiving healthcare providers, reducing the burden on referring healthcare providers to schedule appointments on their behalf. This can streamline the referral process and lead to better client outcomes. By enabling online appointment booking at the time of the eReferral, clients can select an appointment at a time that is convenient for them, which ensures that clients know exactly who is going to help them, and when, improving satisfaction and reducing barriers to access.
By utilizing hot transfers, eReferrals and online appointment booking, community navigators can help to ensure that clients receive the care they need in a timely and efficient manner. These systems provide improved efficiency, enhanced collaboration and communication between healthcare providers, increased accessibility to relevant client data and improved security and privacy. As healthcare technology continues to advance, eReferral systems paired with online appointment booking will likely become an increasingly vital and popular part of the referral process in healthcare.
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