Why You Need a Healthcare Advocate

Why You Need a Healthcare Advocate
| by Kristy Dalechek

Question: If you have a legal issue, do you go directly to a judge? In most cases no, you hire an attorney, a trusted advisor that knows the legal system. If you want to invest, do you go directly to the stock market? In most cases no, you hire a financial advisor, a trained professional that knows the markets. It makes sense then, in some healthcare instances to hire a healthcare advocate, a trusted knowledgeable resource to help guide you.

What Healthcare Advocates Do

A healthcare advocate (sometimes referred to as patient advocate or patient navigator) is someone who helps you navigate the complex healthcare system. They might accompany you to doctor visits, work with family members and caregivers to coordinate care, help find resources, manage medical paperwork, or assist in transitions for aging parents. They might help with disease research, insurance issues, finding doctors, and understanding treatment and care options. The list of services an advocate can provide is extensive.

An advocate will typically meet with you in person, or virtually, to discuss your healthcare goals. They will gather relevant medical history, insurance coverages if needed, and will complete a thorough intake assessment. Together with your input, a care plan will be developed.

Someone in Your Corner

An advocate can be a friend, a family member, or a hired professional with expertise in the field. Private advocacy is a relatively new profession that began to take root in the mid-2000s. Our medical system is complicated and at times more than a little fragmented. It can be difficult to navigate alone. Working with a healthcare advocate puts someone in your corner. A private advocate will put your best interests first and foremost. They will work directly with you and your family to help assure you are receiving the best care possible.

Patient Advocacy at Doctor Appointments

Depending on your individual care plan, an advocate may attend doctor visits with you. During a visit, they will get answers to questions you have and sometimes, questions you did not know you needed to ask. They can also help coordinate care with other members of the healthcare team, assuring all team members are on the same page, with the same healthcare goals in place. During a visit, they can help assure your concerns are addressed and you have a clear understanding of your diagnosis and next steps.

Expert Individualized Referrals, Research, and Follow-Up at Every Turn

An advocate might do well checks to follow up on care and to make sure the care plan is being followed. They can check on progress when family members are not able to be there in person and can escalate issues up the chain of command if needed to assure proper care.

An advocate may do disease research and help source good providers. They may give referrals to financial, legal, and social resources that will help you achieve your healthcare goals. They may complete medical paperwork; help you understand insurance options and help negotiate billing issues.

It is important to note, not all advocates specialize in all areas. Finding an advocate for your specific situation is important. It is also important to note, an advocate, even if trained, will not give medical advice nor provide direct care. An advocate should not receive compensation for any referral they give. An advocate’s role is to be your guide, to provide resources, and to empower you to receive the healthcare you desire.

Healthcare can be scary, worrisome, time-consuming, and sometimes downright frustrating. The good news is you are not alone. A healthcare advocate can be a great resource to help ease the burden, help keep you or your loved one safe, and help get better care and better overall outcomes.