Barriers to healthcare contribute to delays in follow-up among women with abnormal cancer screening: data from the Patient Navigation Research Program
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BACKGROUND: Patient navigation programs were designed to address barriers to healthcare among underserved populations in order to reduce delays in cancer care delivery. While emerging data suggest modest effects of navigation on reducing delays, there is limited understanding of the association between barriers to care and clinical outcomes within patient navigation programs. OBJECTIVE: To investigate the impact of barriers on timely diagnostic care in the multicenter Patient Navigation Research Program (PNRP). STUDY DESIGN: Secondary analysis of data from the intervention arms of PNRP centers that navigated women for abnormal breast or cervical cancer screening tests from 2007 to 2010. METHODS: Analyses were performed separately for breast and cervical subjects. The main independent variables were (a) number of unique barriers to care (0, 1, 2, or 3+) documented during patient navigation encounters and (b) presence of socio-legal barriers (yes/no), those social problems related to meeting life’s most basic needs that are supported by public policy, regulation, and programming and thus potentially remedied through legal advice or advocacy. The outcome of interest was median time to diagnostic resolution, or the interval from index screening abnormality to diagnostic resolution, estimated using Kaplan-Meier cumulative incidence curves. Multivariable Cox proportional hazards regression with time to diagnostic resolution as the outcome examined the impact of barriers, controlling for socio-demographics and stratifying by study center. RESULTS: Among 2600 breast screening subjects, three-quarters had barriers to care (25% 1 barrier, 16% 2 barriers and 34% 3+ barriers). Among 1387 cervical screening subjects, slightly more than half had barriers (31% 1 barrier, 11% 2 barriers, and 13% 3+ barriers). Among breast subjects, we found the presence of barriers was associated with less timely resolution for any number of barriers compared to no barriers. Among cervical subjects, only the presence of 2 or more barriers was associated with less timely resolution. Both socio-legal and non socio-legal barriers were associated with delay among breast and cervical subjects. CONCLUSIONS: Navigated women with barriers resolve cancer screening abnormalities at a slower rate compared to those with no barriers. Further research is necessary to maximize the impact of patient navigation programs nationwide.
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