These barriers are never going to go away completely, Freeman says, but patient navigation can help address them.
"Can you eliminate poverty? Probably not ... but you can change the things that poverty means," he says. "If poor people are less educated, you can educate poor people. If poor people don't have access to screening, diagnosis or treatment, you can create programs to concentrate on those one by one."
For now, patient navigation is primarily being used in the cancer community, but it's spreading to other chronic diseases. Even patient navigation, Freeman says, falls prey to our fragmented system -- one filled with specialists that each operate in a separate universe.
Freeman compares the care continuum, from the first examination to survivorship, to a mile relay.
"It takes teams of people passing batons one to the other until the last runner crosses the finish line."
Since starting the patient navigator program at Mason General, Trout has helped hundreds of women cross that finish line. She often receives letters of thanks from patients who say she helped them feel empowered to make informed decisions in a time of chaos.
"I think when you go through things as a patient, you know, as a parent -- to be able to be treated with compassion and not just (as) another diagnosis is a gift," Trout says. "And that's what I hope I provide."