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Health care 'navigators' to help patients

| Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, 2:30 p.m.

Community health care “navigators” at three Western Pennsylvania hospitals will work to improve quality of care, under a pilot program paid for by the Highmark Foundation.

The foundation will donate $254,500 to the program and team with consulting firm Accenture to train 16 people for St. Vincent Health System in Erie, Allegheny Valley Hospital in Natrona Heights, and a third undetermined hospital.

The navigators, who are not medical professionals, would help connect patients with primary care services. That can reduce no-shows for doctor appointments, decrease hospital admissions and cut unnecessary emergency department visits, the foundation said.

Allegheny and Erie counties need such services because some people have limited access to care, and county statistics show health disparities and low-income and racial or ethnic diversity within the patient population, the foundation said.

“Patient navigation not only creates a one-on-one connection for the patient, it serves as a low-cost investment that delivers significant value to care delivery,” said Jean-Pierre Stephan, who leads health consumer and services strategy for Accenture.

The Highmark Foundation is the charitable arm of Highmark Inc., the state's largest health insurer, which has deals to buy St. Vincent Health System and West Penn Allegheny Health System, the owner of Allegheny Valley.

Alex Nixon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7928 or anixon@tribweb.com.

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