Navigation roles support chronically ill older adults through healthcare transitions: a systematic review of the literature


Dr Paul Stolee
Health Studies and Gerontology
200 University Avenue West
Waterloo, Ontario, N2L 3G1, Canada


Transitions between various healthcare services are potential points for fragmented care and can be confusing and complicated for patients, formal and informal caregivers. These challenges are compounded for older adults with chronic disease, as they receive care from many providers in multiple care settings. System navigation has been suggested as an innovative strategy to address these challenges. While a number of navigation models have been developed, there is a lack of consensus on the desired characteristics and effectiveness of this role. We conducted a systematic literature review to describe existing navigator models relevant to chronic disease management for older adults and to investigate the potential impact of each model. Relevant literature was identified using five electronic databases – Medline, CINAHL, the Cochrane database, Embase and PsycINFO between January 1999 and April 2011. Following a recommended process for health services research literature reviews, exclusion and inclusion criteria were applied to retrieved articles; 15 articles documenting nine discrete studies were selected. This review suggests that the role of a navigator for the chronically ill older person is a relatively new one. It provides some evidence that integrated and coordinated care guided by a navigator, using a variety of interventions such as care plans and treatment goals, is beneficial for chronically ill older adults transitioning across care settings. There is a need to further clarify and standardise the definition of navigation, as well as a need for additional research to assess the effectiveness and cost of different approaches to the health system.