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The Evolving Role of the Financial Navigator

February 6, 2020
Lori headshot

When Lori Schneider helped create the first financial counselor role at Green Bay Oncology in Wisconsin in 2006, she was helping pioneer a solution to a need that would grow tremendously in the following years. “It's a key role,” says Schneider, “and the need for it is expanding, especially with the current insurance structure and huge out-of-pocket expenses for patients.”

Today, Schneider has amassed more than 25 years of experience working in healthcare. She is currently an Oncology Operations Manager at Green Bay Oncology, where she oversees financial counseling, social work, medical records, site management, credentialing, and physician scheduling. She has presented at conferences nationwide on the importance of financial counseling in oncology clinics and the necessity of having a centralized team to address patients’ financial and insurance needs. Schneider and her team have helped cancer programs across the country establish their own financial counseling services. This year, she is serving as chair of the Advisory Committee for ACCC's Financial Advocacy Network.

ACCCBuzz: How did you come to work with ACCC?

Lori Schneider: Several years ago, I attended ACCC’s National Oncology Conference (NOC) for the first time. That was my first exposure to ACCC. I started networking with other professionals who were as passionate as I am about financial navigation issues. Just being able to connect and talk with other experts in the field gets me excited and motivated to do more. I was then asked to do a presentation on financial advocacy at another NOC, which expanded my network. Two years ago, I was asked to join the Advisory Committee for ACCC's Financial Advocacy Network, and now I am the chair. There are so many opportunities to contribute at ACCC, and the need for financial advocacy is just growing and growing.

ACCCBuzz: What is the job of a financial navigator on a daily basis?

Lori Schneider: We work with social workers, pharmacists, doctors, nurses, and other staff members to make sure patients’ needs are met and that their care is managed appropriately. This may include working with the medical team when drugs are not covered to identify a treatment plan that’s affordable for the patient. If necessary, we look for financial assistance and free medication programs. We do authorizations, talk to patients about their coverage, teach them what their benefits are, and provide them with information to help them choose the best insurance for their needs.

We have become a resource for anyone in the clinic who needs it. We educate other staff about what we need to do to get services covered and what we need to consider. We involve the entire care team to help patients on their journey.

ACCCBuzz: What were the chief accomplishments of ACCC’s Financial Advisory Network in 2019?

Lori Schneider: This past year, we raised a lot of awareness about the financial navigator role, how it reduces financial toxicity for both patients and practices, and how it can help cancer programs across the U.S. Financial navigators can help teach and bring together doctors, nurses, social workers, pharmacists, and other staff so they recognize how financial navigation affects the operation of an entire practice. This year, ACCC published, Making the Business Case for Hiring a Financial Navigator, a guide that demonstrates to cancer program leadership the importance of reducing financial toxicity and the proven ROI of financial navigators.

ACCC’s Financial Advocacy Network's Advisory Committee has reached out to cancer centers across the U.S. to provide them with the tools and resources they need to optimize their work. We held a full-day summit in August 2019 in which advocates came together in Washington, D.C., to share their passion for their work and discuss the current issues and concerns they have in a series of think tank sessions. We also held a full-day pre-conference on financial advocacy at the 2019 ACCC National Oncology Conference to share case studies and best practices for creating effective oncology financial advocacy programs.

In December 2019, we held an online town hall to discuss open enrollment, how to review benefits with patients, and how to access resources in the community. We also developed coursework for the Financial Advocacy Boot Camp Level II, which is launching soon for ACCC members.

ACCCBuzz: What are the Financial Advocacy Network's  priorities for 2020?

Lori Schneider: We are in the process of creating additional resources and tools for financial navigators that will help them better do their jobs and educate others about the value of what they do. The more people understand this role, the more effective we will be. This can be a difficult role to walk into and understand.

In 2020, we are incorporating more community engagement into our planning to deliver more information useful in all settings. We are planning both live and virtual opportunities for peer-to-peer learning, including town halls, learning labs, and summits. We will empower financial advocacy stakeholders with more knowledge and resources to support them in their evolving role, including a refreshed Financial Advocacy Toolkit with updated templates, tools, and references. We are specifically looking forward this year to engaging other members of the medical community and teaching them about the role of financial advocacy in helping patients.

ACCCBuzz: Who should consider getting involved in the Financial Advocacy Network?

Lori Schneider:  It is a highly engaged and passionate community. Anyone who works in the oncology setting should join the Financial Advocacy Network. There are always resources and activities available. For example, you can sign up for online updates, engage other financial advocacy professionals in the our online forum, and read articles in ACCC’s journal and on the website. ACCC’s Financial Advocacy Network has created a toolkit with resources for planning, executing, and measuring a financial advocacy program, and the Financial Advocacy Boot Camp is a wonderful web-based learning resource. ACCC’s Patient Assistance and Reimbursement Guide is another great tool for matching patients with free drug programs. And we conduct live webinars on the latest trends in financial navigation.

ACCCBuzz: What do you most want others to know about financial advocacy?

I want organizations to fully understand the benefits of having a financial advocate on staff, including improving patient satisfaction, decreasing patient anxiety about finances, and obtaining better reimbursement. All of these things are good for the patient and good for the bottom line. The more help we can provide patients, the more it’s a win/win for the organization and those we treat. These positions more than pay for themselves.

No one wants a patient or family member to have to do this alone. ACCC and the Financial Advocacy Network have resources to help make this journey easier on individual patients and easier for practices that want to help address the financial distress that patients often experience.

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