Do You Need a Patient Advocate?

Do You Need a Patient Advocate?
Gwendolyn Klein, 11/16/2017
Most people would agree, if you had to go to court for something, you would hire an attorney. Why? Because they are the experts. They know the ins and outs of a courtroom and they will fight for your cause. Most people also hire an accountant to do their taxes because most of us are not educated in finance and an expert will do a better job.

Shouldn’t your health and well-being get the same consideration? After all it is your health and sometimes your life we are talking about.

What is a Patient Advocate?

A patient advocate is someone that you can have in your corner to make sure that you receive the best possible care. Their main focus is to inform and support you. This means that they will keep you in the know about your rights as a patient and help you make an informed decision about your health. There is a wide range of duties and services that a patient advocate covers – from attending doctors’ appointments with you to helping you pay medical bills. While struggling with a terminal illness can be overwhelming and stressful, a patient advocate will be there to ensure that all of the important questions are being asked and will guarantee that there are no misunderstandings or errors. However, if you need help with social security claims or elder abuse than you should look into hiring an elder care attorney.

Do I Need a Patient Advocate?

While you might not need a patient advocate for just a regular checkup, if you or a loved one are experiencing signs of dementia or know that things might take a turn for the worse it is best to designate an advocate before things get too overwhelming. Especially if you believe that you might get diagnosed with a serious or terminal illness, it is good to have someone there to take notes and ask questions as you might not be able to process everything.

Since there is currently no standardized medical billing system, most people do not know what they are paying for when they get hospital bills. Having an advocate decipher your bills and check for billing errors will help immensely. Another concerning statistic is that the third leading cause of death in the United States is preventable medical error, claiming an estimated 250,000 people each year. Having an advocate to research all treatment options and diagnoses could help guard you against medical errors.

Other people who need a patient advocate might include someone who:
  • May need a second opinion.
  • Has difficulty managing or feels overwhelmed by a medical situation.
  • Is unfamiliar with the medical system.
  • Is a senior.
  • Lives far away from family; an advocate can provide monitoring of care for a family member who can’t be present because of distance, travel, or other obligations.
  • Wants support to carry out an advance directive or to discuss end-of-life care.
  • Visits doctors regularly or receives treatment from multiple doctors
What Can an Advocate Do for You
  • Research diagnosis and all treatment options
  • Assist in getting a second opinion
  • Preparation and accompaniment to doctor’s appointments
  • Hospital bedside monitoring
  • Review medications
  • End of Life planning and paperwork (i.e. living wills, POST, DNRs, Advance Directives, etc.)
  • Assist with filing insurance claims and disputing denials
  • Choosing health insurance
  • Mediation
  • Help in filing for Social Security, Disability or other assistance
  • Assisted living or nursing home recommendations
  • Track paperwork and records
  • Pain Management
  • Patient Rights
  • Age in Place
  • Financial Advocacy
  • Review Medical Bills
  • Identify good doctors and make appointments
  • Ask important questions and press to get answers / voice concerns
** Be sure to check if your health insurance covers these services **

Tips on How to Get Started with an Advocate

A patient advocate can be a family member or a professional advocate: social worker, nurse, chaplain, etc. You can ask your hospital if they have professional advocates available as hospital or nursing home advocates are usually free of charge. However, take note that it is best if you advocate is independent from your hospital so that they have your best interests at heart, not the organizations. You can easily search for an advocate on Google or ask friends or family for recommendations and referrals.

Most importantly, choose someone who you trust and can communicate with. Make sure that the person you select is capable and willing to be the advocate you need and be very clear on what role you want your advocate to play and how involved you want them to be. It is also important that you carefully screen whoever you choose. Look at their skills, background, experience, and always ask for references. Also ask if they have had experience with your particular situation and what they did.

Healthcare is a very personal issue. Having a patient advocate in your corner means you have somebody that’s going to ensure the healthcare you receive is not only the best treatment but also fits your personal beliefs and values.
Gwendolyn Klein

Gwendolyn Klein

Gwendolyn Klein the founder of Values Based Patient Advocates located in Chantilly, VA