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Eric Agren



Eric Agren’s head was spinning with details about how to prepare for his upcoming total joint replacement surgery. Although his surgeon had spent more than an hour and a half reviewing everything with him, he says: “it’s a lot to keep straight – there’s a fair amount of prep involved before the surgery as well as details to take care of once it’s over.”

When the phone rang, and a Virtua patient navigator introduced herself and explained how she would guide him through the process, his anxiety immediately began to fade.

Patient navigator Sandy DiLullo, BSN, who specializes in total joint replacement cases, got right to work on a pre-health assessment, gathering basic — but critical – information.

“Based on the health assessment and conversations with the patient’s primary care physician as well as specialists, we learn exactly what pre-admission testing is needed,” says DiLullo.

Patient navigators also coordinate and then schedule all of the patient’s appointments. “One of the first things we do,” says DiLullo, “is to find out patients’ availability and preferences. For instance, do they work nights and need a day-time appointment; do they want an appointment close to home or work; do they travel often and need all of their appointments in one day,” says DiLullo.

Patients also receive a comprehensive printed itinerary to keep all of their appointments straight. “Sandy had everything under control. She made my pre-op and post-op appointments as well as my two-week and six-week appointments. She also scheduled all of my physical therapy and home care needs. I’m not exaggerating when I say she did everything,” says Agren.

There’s a lot of communication between the patient and navigator. “Sometimes the exchange is via e-mail, but most of it is by phone. It’s an opportunity for me to connect with patients and see how they’re feeling or if they have any questions,” says DiLullo.

“I could always reach out to Sandy,” says Agren. “She’d know just where to go to get an answer. It’s like having an insider working for you – someone who understands the system and knows who to call to get things done.”

Patients are not required to use Virtua services in order to use the navigation service. “I’ll set up appointments for them anywhere they need or want to go,” says DiLullo.

Agren was so pleased with the process and results of his joint replacement, that he will have his second one replaced in February by orthopedic surgeon Rajesh K. Jain, MD, a physician at the Virtua Joint Replacement Institute.

The Virtua Joint Replacement Institute provides a wide range of surgical options. The Institute distinguishes itself as a premier service for same-day and minimally invasive knee and hip replacements. It also differentiates itself via a robust patient navigation service. Each patient is assigned a Personal Health Navigator who obtains health insurance clearance and schedules appointments, pre-admission testing, pre-surgery education classes and rehabilitation. The navigators are available to answer questions and guide the patient through the entire process.

Dr. Jain has found the total joint replacement patient navigation service to be invaluable: “As a physician, I feel confident that all pre- and post-surgical needs are scheduled — that nothing is missed. Navigation benefits both the patient and the physician by streamlining the process and centralizing all the information a patient needs.”

Agren reviewed a lot of options but was glad about his choice. “I could have gone anywhere for this surgery. I feel like I chose the best surgeon, and I literally can’t imagine getting through it without Sandy. I don’t know how anyone does.”