What is a Patient Advocate?

What is a Patient Advocate?
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Everyone has had an experience in their life where medical issues completely overtake their lives. Whether it be for yourself or a loved one, the combination of worrying about the quality of your medical care, all the confusing paperwork that needs to be done, or even just being confronted with a scary diagnosis that you don’t fully understand, medical concerns can derail just about anyone’s life. 

The healthcare system is beyond tough to deal with. The red tape that you need to get through to see the right physicians, the pressure of the finances that never seem to stop piling up, the lack of compassion from doctors and nurses who are spread too thin on time to give you the attention you need — it’s a lot to deal with.

In the face of all the confusing medical terms and insurance regulations it’s easy to feel alone and lost in a system that has seemingly discarded you. Without the right knowledge it’s difficult to feel confident when you need to speak up and get the help you need.

You don’t need to go through all of this alone. That’s where a patient advocate can step in and ease the burden of these tough times when navigating the healthcare system. Patient advocates are available to support you at every confusing twist and turn of the maze we call the medical system. From medical guidance, to coordinating physicians, and even negotiating bills, there are patient advocates who can carry the load at just about every step of these often horrifying journeys that are thrusted upon us.

The value of patient advocacy has grown more and more evident in recent years. Patients and their families are frequently left feeling helpless as our healthcare system becomes increasingly sophisticated and costly. 

This profession, which was born out of need, has grown to close major cracks in our healthcare system and provide people undergoing medical journeys with empowerment, support, and advice.

Legislative support for improving healthcare outcomes and access, as well as community-based guidance programs, were made possible by his work to remove barriers to cancer screening and treatment.

The development of patient advocacy has resulted in the creation of certification programs, codes of ethics, and professional organizations which guarantee that advocates follow strict guidelines for their work. Furthermore, specific support is available for older folks and those with chronic illnesses through organizations such as the Patient Advocate Foundation and the Aging Life Care Association.

Despite these developments, there is still confusion surrounding the functions and duties of navigators and patient advocates as well as their funding sources. 

We'll go into more detail about patient advocacy in this blog post, including what they do, when you might need one, and how they can impact your healthcare experience. 

What are the Attributes of Patient Advocacy?

SafeguardingTracking medical errors to protect patients from incompetency or misconduct of co-workers and other members of the healthcare team. 
ApprisingProviding information about the patient’s diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis. Suggesting alternatives of healthcare and informing patients about discharge programs. 
ValuingMaintaining self-control and enabling patients to make decisions freely. Ensuring individualization and humanity in care, respecting patient privacy, and acting in accordance with the patients’ values, culture, beliefs, and preferences.
Mediating Serving as a liaison between patients, families, and healthcare professionals. Acting as the patients’ voice and communicating patient preferences and cultural values to members of the healthcare team. 
Championing Championing social justice in healthcare by confronting inappropriate policies or rules in the healthcare system, identifying and correcting inequalities in the delivery of health services, and facilitating access to community health services and resources. 

What is the Role of a Patient Advocate?

When seeking medical attention, individuals frequently find themselves on a trip that is complex and, let's face it, rather scary. Making choices in the middle of all these changes that seem right? It may be, to put it mildly, overwhelming. 

That's why the requirement is who is fully committed to your well-being. Advocacy professionals can establish a profound connection with patients by genuinely understanding their unique needs and motivations. They can effectively advocate for each patient they work with thanks to this personal touch.

When Did Patient Advocacy Begin? 

The International Council of Nurses (ICN) originally mentioned patient advocacy in their Professional Codes in the 1970s, therefore the concept has actually been around for a while. Since then, major players in the healthcare industry, such as the American Nurses Association (ANA), have recognized how important it is in the current healthcare environment and made it a core part of their recommendations.

Why is Patient Advocacy Important?

By standing up for patients, advocates defend their legal rights and provide them the authority to actively participate in their care choices. Advocates assist patients feel more powerful and in charge by ensuring they have a voice and are aware of all of their alternatives. You know what? Observing how they improve the quality of life for their patients. Not only is it satisfying for the patients, but it is also extremely fulfilling for the patient advocates.

Their main goal is to protect patients' rights and interests while making sure they receive complete treatment that is customized to meet their specific requirements.

Here's an in-depth exploration of the multifaceted role of patient advocates:

1. Clarifying Options and Choices

Patient advocates play a major role in helping patients comprehend and weigh their available medical alternatives. By giving patients access to thorough information on different hospitals, medical professionals, and treatment options, they enable them to make decisions that are in line with their tastes and values. Advocates can help patients choose the best solutions for their unique requirements by providing information about the reputation, specializations, and caliber of care offered by various healthcare institutions and specialists.

 Example: A patient advocate explains the difference between radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery to help a cancer patient evaluate their alternatives for care. By providing information regarding possible adverse effects, success rates, and long-term results, they enable patients to make well-informed decisions that are consistent with their values and preferences.

2. Information Gathering and Questioning

On behalf of patients, advocates diligently compile necessary data, which makes sure that patients have access to all crucial medical information, test findings, and treatment plans. They communicate with healthcare practitioners to get clarifications and insights on behalf of patients, and they handle the healthcare system with skill. To get more information from medical experts about diagnoses, available treatments, possible side effects, and alternative therapies, advocates ask thoughtful and targeted inquiries. Through the promotion of transparent dialogue and information sharing, advocates enable patients to take an active role in their healthcare choices.

Example: When accompanying an elderly patient to a doctor's appointment, a patient advocate makes sure to inquire about any potential interactions between the prescription medication and any other medications the patient may be taking. They obtain in-depth details regarding the planned course of action and make sure the patient is comfortable moving forward with it by explaining the reasoning behind each advice.

3. Executing Patient Requests

Patient advocates function as proactive defenders of patients' rights, carrying out their desires and wishes with consideration and compassion. When it comes to scheduling checkups, getting second opinions, or setting up home care services, advocates work hard to promptly and effectively meet the requirements and preferences of their patients. They serve as a point of contact for patients and medical professionals, facilitating easy coordination and communication to enhance the patient experience.

Example: After surgery, a patient advocate makes arrangements for a disabled patient to receive physical therapy sessions at home. The patient's worries about receiving rehabilitative care are relieved as they work in coordination with the insurance company and healthcare provider to guarantee that the required services are scheduled as soon as possible.

4. Documentation and Communication

To support continuity of care, patient advocates carefully record relevant information and their responses to patients' questions in their extensive records. They make sure patients are properly educated and equipped to actively participate in their healthcare journey by clearly and understandably communicating results, recommendations, and care plans to them. In addition, advocates help patients, families, and medical staff communicate effectively, which promotes mutual understanding and cooperative decision-making.

Example: A patient advocate keeps thorough records of a patient's medical background, diagnostic findings, and preferred course of care. They make sure that everyone is informed and involved in decision-making processes regarding the patient's care plan by communicating updates and recommendations to the patient's family members.

5. Accompanying Patients

By going with patients to check-ups, testing, and treatments, patient advocates provide vital support and assurance. They act as dependable companions, offering advocacy and emotional support all through the medical process. Advocates ensure that in a caring setting, patients feel empowered, respected, and heard when they express their preferences and concerns. Advocates assist patients feel less anxious and have a better overall healthcare experience by being physically present during medical appointments.

Example: A patient advocate goes to a specialist appointment with a patient who has a chronic condition, offering emotional support and pushing for the patient's concerns to be taken seriously. They make sure the patient is appreciated and feels heard during the session, which helps the patient and the healthcare professional communicate well.

6. Medication Management

Patient advocates are helpful in the management of medication because they help patients comprehend the prescription drugs they are taking, how much to take, and any possible side effects. They give patients advice on how to properly arrange and dispense their prescriptions, as well as stress the value of medication adherence. To examine prescription lists, spot possible drug interactions, and answer any questions or concerns about prescribed prescriptions, patient advocates work in tandem with healthcare professionals.

Example: A patient advocate educates a patient with diabetes who has just received a diagnosis on how to use insulin correctly, how to alter dosages, and how to change their diet. To promote the best possible management and control of the disease, they assist the patient in creating a drug regimen and keep track of their adherence to the recommended treatment plan.

7. Conflict Resolution

Patient advocates can handle difficult situations with professionalism and grace because they have good interpersonal skills and experience with conflict resolution. They represent peaceful outcomes while putting patients' welfare and best interests first by mediating disputes and handling emergency circumstances that may arise between patients, family members, and medical staff. Patient advocates encourage constructive discourse and cooperative problem-solving by encouraging open communication and respect between all sides.

Example: When a patient's family and the medical staff cannot agree on how to care for their dying loved one, a patient advocate steps in to mediate the situation. They encourage a kind conversation, making sure that the patient's desires are honored and that the family's worries and feelings are handled with compassion.

8. Protecting Patients' Rights

Advocates are staunch defenders of patients' rights, to be sure they are maintained and honored at every stage of the healthcare process. They protect patients' right to make knowledgeable healthcare decisions by standing up for their autonomy, dignity, and privacy. Advocacy monitors compliance with legal and ethical standards in the provision of healthcare, promoting equitable treatment, nondiscrimination, and universal access to high-quality care for all patients. Furthermore, patient advocates push for the adoption of laws and procedures that support cultural awareness, patient-centered care, and fair access to medical services.

Example: To guarantee effective communication with healthcare providers, a patient advocate fights for a patient who does not speak English to have access to interpretation services during doctor's appointments. Intending to provide fair access to healthcare services for all patients, regardless of language challenges, they collaborate with the healthcare facility to create language access policies and procedures.

Is a Nurse a Patient Advocate?

Because they work closely and constantly with patients, nurses are in a unique position to speak up for their rights inside the healthcare system.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were approximately 3.3 million registered nurses (RNs) employed in the United States as of 2020, making nursing the largest healthcare profession in the country. The United States' overall nursing workforce is predicted to increase by over 11% between 2024 and 2030, accounting for an estimated 593,500 new jobs. 

Ensuring that patients receive personalized, comprehensive care that attends to their physical, emotional, and psychosocial needs is one of the main responsibilities of nurses in their capacity as patient advocates. To create complete care plans that are specific to each patient's circumstances, nurses evaluate patients' ailments, discuss their concerns and preferences with the healthcare team, and work in conjunction with other healthcare experts. 

As the first point of contact for patients, nurses function as frontline caregivers, providing support, information, and direction throughout the patient's healthcare journey.

1. Patient Safety: As watchful advocates of patient safety, nurses take action to stop infections, bad outcomes, and medical mistakes. To reduce risks and encourage the best possible outcomes, they perform in-depth examinations, keep an eye on their patient's vital signs, and act quickly to address any signs of deterioration.

2. Facilitating Informed Decision-Making: Essential information on diagnosis, available treatments, and possible risks and benefits is given to patients by nurses. By breaking down complicated ideas into simple terms, answering any queries or worries the patient may have, and providing plain language explanations of medical terminology, they enable patients to make educated decisions.

3. Upholding Patients' Rights: Nurses protect patients' rights by upholding their privacy, autonomy, and dignity. By standing up for patients' rights to treatment choices, involvement in care decisions, and the respect and compassion they deserve, they make sure that patients receive the care they need.

4. Addressing Healthcare Disparities: By supporting culturally sensitive practices and fighting for fair access to care, nurses play a critical role in resolving healthcare inequities. In order to address structural barriers to healthcare, they work with community resources, advocate for underprivileged communities, and increase public understanding of socioeconomic determinants of health.

5. Advocating for Policy Change: At the municipal, state, and federal levels, nurses have significant influence as advocates for policy reform. Nursing professionals push laws and regulations that enhance patient safety, raise the standard of care, and advance health equity through associations like the American Nurses Association (ANA) and community-based campaigns.

To be able to effectively advocate for patients' rights, safety, and well-being, nurses must use their knowledge, empathy, and dedication. Throughout their healthcare journey, nurses, as dependable patient advocates and frontline caregivers, are essential in guaranteeing that patients receive the best possible care and are treated with compassion, decency, and respect.

What's the Difference Between a Private Patient Advocate and a Hospital-Based Patient Navigator?

A hospital-based patient navigator and a private patient advocate differ mainly in their areas of expertise, work environments, and functions within the healthcare system.

Scope of Practice

Private Patient Advocate

Private patient advocates offer individualized, one-on-one help to patients and their families either on their own or through advocacy organizations. They provide full-service advocacy, which includes assisting patients in interacting with healthcare practitioners, arranging care, navigating the healthcare system, and standing up for the rights and preferences of patients.

Hospital-Based Patient Navigator

Hospital-based patient navigators usually work inside a particular healthcare facility, like a clinic or hospital. They frequently play the key role of assisting patients in understanding the healthcare system inside that particular institution. Their area of expertise is typically more restricted to the resources and services offered within the hospital or healthcare institution, even if they might offer some services that are comparable to those offered by private patient advocates, such as making appointments and offering emotional support.

Employment Setting

Private Patient Advocate

Patients or their families directly hire private patient advocates, frequently on a fee-for-service basis. They could operate on their own or as a member of consultancy businesses or advocacy groups.

Hospital-Based Patient Navigator

Hospitals, clinics, and cancer centers are among the healthcare organizations that usually use hospital-based patient navigators. As a member of the hospital staff, they might collaborate closely with social workers, physicians, and other healthcare professionals to support patients during their medical journey.

Nature of Role

Private Patient Advocate

Private patient advocates provide patients and their families with individualized, continuous support, frequently acting as a dependable point of contact throughout the healthcare process. They support patients' rights, choices, and requirements by providing them with specialized advice and support based on their particular needs.

Hospital-Based Patient Navigator 

Patient navigators working in hospitals concentrate on assisting patients in utilizing the many services and resources offered by the hospital or healthcare facility. They could guide patients through financial aid applications, appointment scheduling, administrative procedures, and care coordination within the hospital system. Usually, they play a more institution-centric function, primarily assisting patients on their hospital travels.

Although both hospital-based patient navigators and private patient advocates are crucial in helping patients through the healthcare system, there are differences between them in terms of their roles within the healthcare ecosystem, job settings, and areas of practice. While hospital-based patient navigators concentrate on assisting patients in accessing the resources and services offered inside a particular healthcare facility, private patient advocates provide patients and their families with individualized, all-encompassing support.

What is Another Name For a Patient Advocate?

There are several names for patient advocates, which reflects the variety of responsibilities they play in the healthcare system. Here are some more names that patient advocates could go by:

1. Healthcare Navigator:

Healthcare navigators support patients in understanding the complicated healthcare system by assisting in their available treatments, gaining access to essential services, and removing hurdles to care. They schedule appointments, walk patients through medical procedures, and help them interpret medical jargon and insurance policies.

  • Single Entry Point for All Healthcare Needs: When someone is trying to deal with the healthcare system, healthcare navigators assist as a single point of contact. They provide patients and their families with smooth access to medical services, resources, and support.
  • 24/7 Support and Advocacy: Healthcare navigators provide round-the-clock support and advocacy for patients. Whether it's answering questions, addressing concerns, or providing guidance during medical emergencies, they are available to assist patients every step that comes their way.
  • Dedicated Care Teams: Healthcare navigators put together committed care teams that are beneficial to patients. These teams work together with physicians, specialists, and other relevant parties to plan patient care, promote communication, and guarantee treatment continuity.


  1. They make sure that each patient receives recommendations for their care that are specifically catered to by getting to know their individual circumstances and preferences.
  2. Whether a patient needs clarification on a diagnosis or treatment plan or is seeking a second opinion, navigators connect them with qualified healthcare providers who may offer insightful advice.
  3. They offer guidance on insurance coverage, out-of-pocket expenses, and cost-effective treatment options, empowering patients to make informed decisions about their healthcare spending.

2. Medical Liaison:

Medical liaisons act as intermediaries between patients, healthcare providers, and insurance companies, facilitating communication and ensuring that patients' needs are met. They advocate for patients' rights and preferences, helping to bridge the gap between patients and healthcare professionals.

Here's a breakdown of what they do:

  1. They act as informed sources, offering details about products, research, and clinical trials.
  2. Medical liaisons educate healthcare professionals about the company's products, including their indications, mechanisms of action, and safety profiles. They may also provide updates on new research findings and treatment guidelines.
  3. By facilitating investigator-initiated investigations, gathering feedback from medical professionals, and informing patients about ongoing clinical trials, medical liaisons can promote clinical research activities.
  4. Medical liaisons answer concerns regarding product safety, appropriate use, and efficacy in response to medical questions from healthcare professionals. Additionally, they could offer literature reviews and scientific presentations to aid with medical education initiatives.
  5. Medical liaisons establish and preserve connections with influential figures, medical associations, and educational establishments. They build credibility and confidence by promoting cooperation and providing precise, fact-based information.
  6. Medical liaisons interview medical professionals to learn about treatment trends, unmet medical requirements, and patient needs. They share this input with internal teams so that it can be used to guide strategic choices and actions related to product development.
  7. When working with healthcare professionals, medical liaisons make sure that all industry rules and regulations are followed. They keep themselves informed on pertinent rules, guidelines, and moral principles.

3. Health Advocate:

A Health Advocate, also known as a Patient Advocate, helps patients and families with their healthcare needs. Here's what they do:

  • They guide patients through the healthcare system, explaining treatment options, insurance, and finding services.
  • They help patients make informed choices by giving them information and support.
  • Health advocates ensure patients get the care they deserve and resolve any issues with healthcare providers or insurers.
  • They offer comfort and understanding during tough times, like coping with a diagnosis.
  • Health advocates organize appointments and help patients transition between different healthcare settings.
  • They explain medical terms, treatments, and resources available.
  • Health advocates work to ensure everyone gets fair access to healthcare services.

4. Patient Navigator:

A patient navigator helps people make easy wayfinding decisions inside the healthcare system. What they do is:

  1. They assist patients in comprehending medical procedures, available treatments, and the process of obtaining healthcare services.
  2. Appointments, specialist referrals, and transfers between various healthcare facilities are managed by navigators.
  3. They make sure that everyone is in agreement by facilitating communication between patients, insurance companies, and healthcare professionals.
  4. Patients can receive assistance along their healthcare journey by connecting with community resources, support groups, and other services through navigators.
  5. They guarantee that patients' demands are satisfied within the healthcare system and fight for their rights.

Medical advocates are essential in helping people handle the healthcare system, standing up for their rights, and making sure they get the assistance and care they require.

Whatever title they go by, these experts always have the same primary duties. They act as supporters and allies for patients, offering data, tools, and emotional assistance to enable people to make well-informed decisions regarding their health and welfare.

A healthcare advocate's responsibilities can change based on the environment in which they operate. While some patient advocates work on their own, providing individualized support to single patients, others could be hired by hospitals, advocacy groups, or healthcare organizations to handle a greater number of patients.

Healthcare advocates may take part in policy advocacy, community outreach, and educational initiatives in addition to providing direct patient assistance. These activities are meant to advance patient-centered care and enhance healthcare outcomes and accessibility for all people.

How is the Profession of Patient Advocacy Prganized?

Patient advocacy is a profession that is structured through a number of professional associations, certification schemes, and educational programs that support professional growth, ethical behavior, and standards of practice. The organization of the patient advocate profession is as follows:

Professional Organizations

The practice of patient advocacy is supported and advanced by a number of professional organizations. In an effort to advance patient advocates' interests and raise the standard of patient advocacy services, these organizations offer tools, networking opportunities, and advocacy campaigns. Professional organizations include, for example:

National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants (NAHAC)

Through lobbying, networking, and education, NAHAC is a professional association that supports healthcare advocacy consultants.

Professional Health Advocates Alliance (APHA)

As a membership association for healthcare advocates, APHA provides tools, instruction, and networking opportunities to enhance patient advocacy excellence and professional growth.

The Board for Patient Advocate Certification (PACB)

A credentialing organization called PACB provides certification programs for patient advocates, guaranteeing that professionals adhere to predetermined criteria of competence and moral behavior.

Patient Advocacy Certification Programs

For lawmakers to set competency and professionalism requirements in the patient advocate industry, certification programs are essential. These programs guarantee that patient advocates have the information and abilities required to properly represent their clients by offering instruction, training, and evaluation. Topics include healthcare systems, patient rights, communication techniques, ethics, and legal concerns that may be covered in certification programs. Patient advocates show their dedication to quality and observance of professional standards by earning accreditation. Programs for certification include, for example

Board Certified Patient Advocate (BCPA)

Through a thorough examination process, candidates' knowledge and skills in patient advocacy are evaluated as part of the BCPA certification program, which is provided by the Patient Advocate Certification Board (PACB).

Certified Patient Advocate (CPA)

The Professional Patient Advocate Institute (PPAI) offers a CPA certification program that teaches and trains applicants in patient advocacy techniques and concepts, leading to certification for eligible individuals.

Educational Initiatives

Educational programs serve the purpose of both educating people for careers in patient advocacy and encouraging continued professional growth in the sector. Academic programs, continuing education classes, workshops, and seminars with a patient advocacy theme are a few examples of these endeavors. Aspiring and experienced patient advocates can improve their knowledge, abilities, and competencies to better assist their clients by taking part in educational programs. A few instances of educational endeavors are as follows:

Bachelor's and Master's Degree Programs in Patient Advocacy

A number of colleges have academic programs focused on patient advocacy, giving students a solid basis in the concepts and techniques of healthcare advocacy.

Continuing Education Courses

Practitioners can stay up to date on industry trends, best practices, and emerging challenges by taking advantage of continuing education classes and workshops on patient advocacy themes offered by professional organizations, certifying bodies, and academic institutions.