What To Do When Your Patient Has a Health Advocate

What To Do When Your Patient Has a Health Advocate
| by Rebeka Acosta

Originally published by A+J Patient Advocacy
As the bottom line continues its stronghold on the U.S. healthcare system, more and more patients are choosing to work with independent health advocates.
It has become increasingly clear in recent years that our healthcare system does not operate in the best interest of patients. What you also need to know is that the system does not operate in the best interest of medical providers either. Physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers are bound by system protocols, insurance rules, and financial restrictions, just like patients. In the midst of the many woes of our system, independent patient advocates are stepping in to fill the gaps.

What is an independent health advocate?

Independent health advocates are an integral part of any care team, supporting and guiding a patient through their medical journey. Board Certified Patient Advocates are qualified professionals with the primary goal of ensuring the best outcomes for the patient.
As the name suggests, these professionals are independent of any health system, hospital, doctor’s office, or insurance company. They work solely for the patient and may practice one or more sub-specialties, like pediatric health advocacy or insurance and billing advocacy.

What are independent health advocates allowed to do?

The tasks an independent health advocate is qualified to do may fill several notebooks, but the basics include:

•Decision support, patient guidance
•Care management, transitions of care
•Insurance and billing
•Patient safety and patient education
•End of life planning
•Health proxy, guardianship, and other health-related legal processes
•Diagnosis-specific focus areas (mental health, rare diseases, cancer, etc.)
•Population-focused practices (pediatrics, young adults, geriatrics, VA, etc.)
•Medical reviews (for those advocates with clinical credentials)

To dive deeper into the many ways an independent health advocate might practice, visit the Job Task Analysis completed in 2021.

My patient could use an independent health advocate. How do we find one?

There are several online directories available to the public, searchable by location, type of advocate, or specific health need:
1. Greater National Advocates
2. APHA 
3. HealthAdvocateX
4.National Association of Healthcare Advocacy (NAHAC)

My patient brought their independent health advocate to a medical appointment. What should I do?

•Don’t panic – advocates are there to help
•Congratulate your patient for recognizing their needs and finding support
•Verify the advocate’s credentials, their role in the patient’s healthcare journey, and how the patient would like the advocate to be included or consulted on their case
•Don’t assume the advocate has clinical credentials, but know that they have loads of health system experience
•Ask your patient if they would like to allow their advocate to access private medical information; if the patient has already signed forms with their advocate, ask for a copy and scan it into the patient’s chart
•Remember that advocates are excellent communicators; set reasonable expectations for your availability and the methods/instances in which the advocate can contact you, both during and after business hours
•Ask the advocate for specific help; let them bridge the gaps once the patient leaves your office 
•Whether you are the patient, the advocate, or the medical provider, the saying rings true…team work makes the dream work.