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Services Offered by Patient Advocates

Updated on March 29, 2013
It can be helpful and less intimidating to take someone along with you to a doctor's visit, whether they be a support person or patient advocate.
It can be helpful and less intimidating to take someone along with you to a doctor's visit, whether they be a support person or patient advocate. | Source

What Is a Patient Advocate?

In general terms, a patient advocate, sometimes called a health care advocate, health advocate or case manager, is someone you trust who serves as your spokesperson, supporter, believer and backer - all as and when you need these services -- and always acting in your best interest.

There are professional patient advocates who will work with and for you in times of need.

There are volunteer patient advocates in some areas who serve much the same function as a professional patient advocate, but do so without pay.

And there are the patient advocates who are your friends, family or other people close to you such as a spiritual adviser, neighbor, or co-worker. This type of patient advocate knows and understands you in the context of day-to-day living and has the advantage of already being in your trusted circle of people.

Volunteer Patient Advocates

Have You Ever Acted as a Patient Advocate?

You may have already had some experience as a patient advocate and not realized that your actions and support for someone close to you was considered advocacy.

Have you ever accompanied someone to the doctor's office to be an extra set of ears to understand and remember what was said by the doctor? Perhaps you had questions for the doctor or staff that the patient hadn't considered.

Have you known someone in a long-term care facility you visited regularly and kept tabs on his/her condition and care?

Have you been at a loved one's bedside when a doctor came to visit and made sure the patient understood the information provided?

All of these actions are patient advocacy, even though they seem of little consequence at the time. You can be sure the person for whom you did these things was relieved to have someone upon whom to lean and felt more secure.

Health Consumer Advocate and Health Consumer Trends

When you are ill, you can quickly become overwhelmed with information, technology and being is a strange environment.
When you are ill, you can quickly become overwhelmed with information, technology and being is a strange environment. | Source
It is both comforting and reassuring to know a patient advocate will be there for you.
It is both comforting and reassuring to know a patient advocate will be there for you. | Source

What Types of Services do Patient Advocates Provide?

Patient advocates provide a myriad of services related to health and medical care. Not all patient advocates or health navigators provide all of the services, but most of them will provide services that are comprehensive in nature.

* Do you need someone to take you to doctor's appointments? Patient advocates will do this and will accompany you when you see the doctor. The two of you may have put together a list of questions you'll want to ask during the doctor visit, or the advocate may ask questions on your behalf. Anything that may come up at the visit is something your advocate can handle for you, if you wish.

* Would you like someone to stay at the hospital with you? A patient advocate, case manager or other advocate professional can arrange to stay at your bedside. The advocate can monitor your care, ask questions as needed, and represent your concerns and wishes.

* You're going home from the hospital, but don't know how to arrange the after-care you'll need? A patient advocate can work with the hospital discharge planner and arrange whatever home services you'll need. The patient advocate understands your individual circumstances and ensure a smooth transition from hospital to home or other setting.

* Your health insurance provider is refusing to pay for medical services you've received or will not provide prior authorization for a medication or treatment your doctor has ordered. A patient advocate will help you file insurance claims, manage your medical bills and intervene as necessary when problems with health care coverage arise. An advocate can also work on your behalf to try to reduce your hospital or medical bills.

* Have you been newly diagnosed with a health condition and feel you don't understand the ramifications or treatment options? A patient advocate can help you understand your diagnosis and the potential impact it may have on your overall health and lifestyle. The advocate can explain the various treatment options and help you arrive at a decision as to how you want to proceed.

* You've thought about completing a living will and naming a health care power of attorney, but are unsure how to go about it? The patient advocate can assist you in explaining the options available, providing the paperwork accepted in your state and ensuring the completed forms go where they are needed.

Where Can I Find a Patient Advocate?

Depending on your needs and the services you wish, you may have a friend or family member who will happily accompany you to a doctor's visit or sit at your bedside at the hospital. There may be volunteer patient advocates available through your health care center or in the community.

If these options aren't available or attractive to you, or the person who is helping you doesn't know how to handle circumstances that arise, you may want to consider hiring a patient advocate/case manager/health care advocate/health navigator.

Your health care provider or personal attorney may be able to provide the names of patient advocacy services in your area. You could contact the offices of an elder care attorney for possible referral agencies, or social services at the hospital.

Other options:

* Silver Connections and Elder Care Locator: These are each referral sources that provide information free of charge for services needed by older adults.

* Patient Advocate Foundation: This not-for profit nationwide organization provides case management for people with chronic, debilitating or life-threatening conditions and illnesses. They will act as an intermediary between patient and insurance company, employer about job retention and more and will mediate situations that arise as a result of health and medical care. The PAF does not provide direct case management services for coordination of care issues.

* AdvoConnection: The Alliance of Professional Health Advocates, AHPA, maintains the AdvoConnection site as a service to anyone seeking advocacy services. Through contact with AdvoConnection, you'll receive information about patient advocates in your area.

If you are interested in becoming a patient advocate, want to learn more about advocacy and more, visit Every Patient's Advocate.

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    • L.L. Woodard profile imageAUTHOR

      L.L. Woodard 

      5 years ago from Oklahoma City

      Vickiw, you bring up a valid point. A patient advocate provides benefits for the staff as well as the patient. Communication is vastly improved, staff has more accurate information with which to work; it's a win-win situation.

      I'm sure those people for whom you've advocated have appreciated your efforts on their behalf.

      Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • profile image

      Vickiw 

      5 years ago

      Interesting article, and this advocacy is very much needed. I have helped patients as a volunteer advocate several times, and there is no doubt it is helpful both to patients and hospital staff.

    • L.L. Woodard profile imageAUTHOR

      L.L. Woodard 

      5 years ago from Oklahoma City

      Healthylife2, from what I gather, patient advocacy can be as focused or generalized as the individual involved wishes it to be. The needs are so great from the patients' perspective and hospitals are getting on board as well.

      I'm excited about the possibilities, but have concerns that some of the people most in need of patient advocate services, such as older adults of modest and low income, won't be able to afford the services of professional advocates.

      I appreciate your comments and look forward to sharing your journey.

    • healthylife2 profile image

      Healthy Life 

      5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Thank you so much for taking the time to write this. As you know I am considering this as a career when the time is right. You answered every single question I had in this one article. I didn't realize there were agencies that offered these services. That might be a good starting point. Also the responsibilities differ depending on where the services are offered so that is something to investigate as well.I will also check out the links you provided.

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