This year’s 11th Annual Navigation & Survivorship Conference, hosted by AONN+, looked a little different than other years. The leadership decided to make this year’s conference a virtual one, but we’re happy to report that the 4-day event was as engaging as ever. TailorMed’s Director of Financial Navigation, Clara Lambert BBA, OPN-CG, presented at the event and attended a number of the sessions over the course of the conference. She summarized the highlights of the event, which you can read below.

Day 1 | Wednesday, November 4

We kicked off the conference with a Financial Navigation Pre-Conference session, which was well attended.

One of the topics which was led by myself and Angie Santiago, CRCS. was, “If you don’t have a formal financial navigation program – how do you find all the puzzle pieces in your program?” We discussed how it’s likely that many financial navigation functions are taking place in different departments, and there are great ways to pull all these pieces together and link them for increased efficiency and transparency. Together with some good metrics and reporting, you can show your administration the need for a formal program.

Next, we had Nikki Barkett, RN, BSN, OCN, Oral Antineoplastics Nurse Navigator discuss her Oral Navigation program. Dan Sherman, MA, LPC followed with a very invigorating discussion around insurance optimization. This led to Dan and Angie presenting on how to turn your Financial Navigation program from reactive to proactive. Lots of time was left for questions and answers, where I moderated an engaged discussion. In all it was a very interactive session, as is usually the case at AONN+ conferences, including great attendee interaction and questions.

Day 2 | Thursday, November 5

While I wasn’t able to attend all of the sessions, I tried to make sure I was attending sessions that would bring value to my practice as a financial navigator.

I started the day by attending my colleague, Elizabeth Franklin’s PhD, MSW presentation.  This was her doctoral thesis presentation, so she deserves congratulations for earning her PhD and for her AONN+ 2020 Annual Ambassador Award. We are co-chairs of the policy and advocacy committee together, and you can tell from this presentation that she also has a passion for patients and the costs associated with their treatments. She spent a lot of time with her patients, and what the value of their treatments meant to them.

AONN+ always does a great job with their conferences, whether in person or virtual. While we couldn’t be in New Orleans in person, they made us feel a little like we were there with a virtual walking tour. We saw sights, learned where to buy the best souvenirs, heard ghost stories, learned historical facts, and are all ready to head to New Orleans as soon as we are able to travel.

After lunch we were joined by Monica Fawzy Bryant, Esq. and Johana Fawzy Morales, Esq. from Triage Cancer to discuss navigating Cancer-Related Legal Issues. So many of the legal issues that cancer patients face correlate directly to the financial issues that we work with, so this was an important session to attend. They continued on the topics that were started at the pre-conference the day before, and talked about health insurance and the government programs to help optimize coverage. They also discussed important concepts in order to protect your job, and the rights and laws protecting jobs and a patient’s dignity.

The evening continued in the New Orleans theme with a live cooking event from Chef Amy Sins. This was a great interactive experience that rounded out a full day!

Day 3 | Friday, November 6

Friday morning started with keynote speaker, Bina Parekh, PhD, from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, who spoke on Understanding Vicarious Trauma and its Path to Resilience. This is an important topic for all navigators, as we can take our work home with us without realizing it.

I joined in again after lunch to hear Frances Ford, LCSW, LICSW, LCSW-C speak about Health Disparities in Rural Communities. This was an important topic to me, and I related to a lot of it since I started my financial navigation journey in northern Michigan, and had some very similar experiences.

Day 4 | Saturday, November 7

I woke up early to join in the session with Pharmacist Ali McBride, PharmD, MS, BCOP, FAzPA, FASHP and Lead Financial Advocate Angie Santiago, CRCS. This was a really great opportunity to learn about biosimilars in a multidisciplinary setting. Ali helped me to learn about clinical aspects, while Angie dove into the financial navigation of biosimilars, including how insurance companies can have influence on what biosimilars are required to be used for a patient’s treatment.

I attended the Policy and Advocacy session after lunch, which was important to me for several reasons. One is that healthcare policy affects financial navigation in many different ways, and it is important to stay on top of it. My colleagues, Kerri Medeiros, BSN, RN, OCN, ONN-CG(T), Michele Hubert-Fiscus, MSN, RN, CCM, and Debra Kelly, RN, OCN put together a really great presentation that explained healthcare advocacy, how the AONN+ Policy and Advocacy Committee has been involved in the past year, the impact of COVID-19 on cancer care, updates on Medicaid expansion, and some of their personal advocacy efforts.

TailorMed’s own Christie Lee and I put together a poster presentation on Financial Navigation Roles and Responsibilities and the Effects of COVID-19. This was in the Poster Hall along with about 30 other posters. There were seven different categories for the posters. Many of the poster submissions go on to become articles in the AONN Journal of Oncology Navigation and Survivorship, so stay tuned for that!

Day 5 | Sunday, November 8

The conference came to an end on Sunday with a couple of really interesting sessions.  There was a session on employee conflict that I am glad I didn’t miss, followed by Tara O’Brien, MBA with Cancer Services, which is an organization that works with their community to provide comprehensive support to cancer patients which includes financial support.

The conference ended with an interactive session with leadership. It was so good to get together with my peers at AONN+, since we’ve all been separated for much of this year. The conferences are always interesting, informative and very interactive, and I always come away with a wealth of information. One thing I found amazing is how so many programs have found ways to incorporate financial navigation, even if it is not directly in their hospital system.