Patient Care Advocates: Who are they, and how can they help?

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The healthcare system has become complex and very fragmented. This may be confusing for patients who have to see multiple specialists and track treatment plans. Patients already have more than enough to deal with, such as problems with health insurance and confusing medical bills. 

Healthcare advocacy helps ease the burdens on patients and improve their experience and quality of healthcare delivery.

Who Is A Patient Care Advocate?

A professional patient care advocate works with other people within a care team to ensure a patient receives proper care. They can be found in hospitals and are also called patient navigators. In many hospitals, the patient care advocates are chaplains, nurses, or social workers.

Patient care advocates help patients identify the challenges they may face regarding their care and help find appropriate solutions. They also help you identify the right questions to ask your doctor and assist you in resolving financial problems. 

Not all patient care advocates work in or for the hospital. Some work independently, and patients can hire them as freelancers, and others commit to community-based organizations. Some independent advocates may specialize in a particular disease, such as cancer, diabetes, or stroke. Others may focus on health insurance claims and billings. 

Roles or Services of Patient Care Advocates

Patient care advocates play multiple roles for patients. Some of the roles are:

  1. Medical assistance

Patient care advocates have a medical background and are well-versed in navigating the healthcare system. They can help you review your diagnoses, test reports, medical records, and treatment options. They are also at your bedside monitoring your care and may accompany you when you have medical appointments. 

Advocates that can provide this type of care for you are those with a medical background. In many cases, some of them are retired nurses and doctors or have experience working in a healthcare capacity at some point in their careers. There are also programs created to train patient advocates for this career. You can view a list of the programs at APHAdvocates

  1. Educators

Advocates don’t exist for hospital stays and doctor visits alone. As a patient, you can discuss your health issues with them, even if it’s a new condition. In many cases, a patient advocate can provide insight into whether or not a treatment plan is effective. They can provide you with some direction and ensure that you do not have to struggle to make important decisions on your own. This is especially important for seniors and those who live alone. 

In some cases, they may help you educate doctors about your health condition to ensure that you’re managing it better. Their communication with the doctor is crucial as it ensures that chronic issues like hypertension and fall risk are dealt with appropriately.

  1. Decision-making help

As mentioned earlier, patient advocates can help you make complex health decisions. For decision-making, there are two types of assistance that they can provide for you:

Conflict resolution or mediation helps you make a difficult decision that relates to your care or that of your loved ones. 

Common patient-physician conflicts occur when there is poor communication, impaired trust and respect, different expectations, social-cultural differences, and power imbalances. Mediation helps to preserve the relationship and avoid a war-footing approach, and this will give both parties better outcomes. 

Shared decision-making: this process ensures that patients can make decisions based on their beliefs and value system. 

  1. Legal assistance 

It is possible to need legal help when dealing with some medical problems. Some medical issues that may require an advocate’s legal assistance include disability filings, workers’ compensations, medical error reviews, and malpractice. 

  1. Insurance assistance

Health insurance can be confusing, especially with issues such as cost and billing. Patient care advocates can help you or your loved ones find your way through this confusion. They may help you choose the right insurance plan, handle insurance filings and other paperwork, make decisions related to the Medicare plan, and negotiate claims denial. 

  1. Home health assistance and geriatric care

This is a relatively new service that patient care advocates provide, but it’s in high demand currently. Their services include home rehabilitation and therapy, daily living assistance, and in-home nursing care. 

The focus is on seniors and the elderly in geriatric care, but the setting is the same as a nursing home or assisted living setting. They may also provide help with hospice or Medicare services. 

  1. Health coaches

Health coaching focuses on lifestyle management and individual wellness rather than service rendered to a sick person. However, there are cases where health coaches can help you deal with chronic health conditions such as cardiac problem recovery or control of blood sugar in diabetes. 

Tips for Choosing a Personal Health Care Advocate

To choose a personal healthcare advocate, these are some of the steps that you should take:

  • Explain clearly: you need to speak clearly about your health needs and concerns.
  • Give them details of your medical history: they need to know everything related to your health. 
  • Give them access to your health record so that they can refer to notes or test results, ask for prescription medication refills, and email concerns to your physicians. You must give the doctor written permission to share your information with them. 
  • Ask prospective advocates to record their conversations with your healthcare professionals or take notes. If necessary, ask for the doctor’s permission. 
  • Give your doctors the advocate’s contact information, and make sure the advocate has the contact information of your healthcare team.

Conclusion 

More than ever, patient care advocates have an essential role to play in healthcare. You or a loved one may benefit from having a personal healthcare advocate. Some hospitals have patient advocates on staff to assist you. Geriatricians, social workers, and registered nurses can also act as healthcare advocates. You can get a healthcare advocate at https://www.advoconnection.com.

Jerome Puryear

Dr. Jerome Puryear Jr., MD, MBA, is a Health and Well-being coach and renowned Obesity in Medicine expert. With a holistic perspective on patient care, Dr. JP is dedicated to helping individuals maximize their health and well-being.