Home visits are making a comeback thanks to Independent Patient Advocates

Having an Independent Patient Advocate in your corner can be a life-saver.

A home doctor visit used to be common practice with a host of benefits including convenience, better communication, increased trust, and an overall more personal patient/doctor relationship. Home visits meant doctors could see their patients in their own environment, where they are most comfortable. Doctors could also observe living arrangements, assess needs, and identify unsafe or unhealthy environments that would never be discovered in the examining room.

The Decline of Home Doctor Visits and the Need for Personalized Care

Unfortunately, the practice of home visits by doctors has declined over the years due to various reasons, but there is still a need for personalized and convenient care for patients who are unable to travel to a clinic or hospital. This is where Independent Patient Advocates can fill the void by offering home visits or telemedicine consultations.

During these visits, patient advocates can assess patients’ living conditions, provide medication management, and offer other medical and non-medical support. They can also be a valuable ally for someone who needs help understanding a new or complicated diagnosis, manage patient care and improve hospital responsiveness, secure second opinions, and help with the selection of long-term care facilities. They can act as a liaison between patients and healthcare providers, help patients navigate the healthcare system, educate patients about their health conditions and treatment options, and advocate for their rights and preferences.

Independent Patient Advocates: Filling the Void Left by Doctors Who No Longer Make House Calls
Independent Patient Advocates can fill the void left by doctors who no longer make house calls by providing a range of services to patients. In doing so, patient advocates can help patients receive the care and support they need to manage their health conditions and improve their overall well-being.

Many Independent Patient Advocates are former healthcare professionals such as nurses, doctors, social workers, and medical case managers. Others worked for insurance companies, aging adults, or as mentors for people with disabilities or living with a chronic illness. A growing number of Independent Patient Advocates have been tested and credentialed by the Patient Advocacy Certification Board.

It’s important to know that each Independent Patient Advocates has a particular specialty that’s based on their own individual training and experience.

Medical Guidance Advocates

For example, Medical Guidance Advocates, are front-line advocates who can step in and take charge during a medical crisis or emergency. Medical Guidance Advocates have the clinical experience and skills to support patients struggling to manage a hospitalization or understand a new or complicated diagnosis.

Healthcare Advocates who specialize in Medical Guidance are front-line advocates who can step in and take charge during a medical crisis or emergency. They can be a valuable ally for any patient or loved one who needs help managing care, improving hospital responsiveness, securing second opinions, assembling care teams, or researching and selecting medical facilities.

Lifestyle & Wellness Advocates

Another Independent Patient Advocacy specialty is Lifestyle and Wellness. These professionals are focused on keeping patients healthy and out of the hospital by fostering preventive and healthy lifestyle choices through education and coaching. Lifestyle and Wellness Advocates are passionate about helping patients rebuild strength and restore self-esteem after a hospitalization, medical procedure, or course of therapy. Some Lifestyle and Wellness Advocates have backgrounds and training in functional medicine concepts and can introduce alternative, integrative, or holistic treatments.

Insurance & Billing Advocates

Independent Patient Advocates also play a crucial role in helping challenge surprise bills, eliminate excessive charges, and resolve out-of-network disputes. Insurance and Billing Advocates understand that one of the most frustrating and worrisome aspects of any hospitalization or medical procedure is not knowing what’s covered by insurance. Advocates who specialize in Insurance and Billing have firsthand knowledge about Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, employee health plans, and other programs like Social Security and Veterans Benefits.

Insurance and Billing Advocates are on top of the rapid changes in our healthcare payment system, meaning they can ensure that patients are getting the most out of their coverage. Insurance and Billing advocates can often eliminate or reduce excessive charges, negotiate for smaller payments, or help patients qualify for financial assistance. Many Insurance and Billing Advocates can even help patients figure out what type of health insurance to get, and when to get it.

Special Care & Aging Advocates

When it comes to personalized support for the elderly and patients with special needs, Health Care Advocates who focus on Special Care & Aging, include geriatric and elder care professionals who know the ins and outs of independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing facilities. This means they can assist with coordination between patients, families, caregivers, and medical staff.

Independent Patient and Health Care Advocates who specialize in Special Care and Aging have the background and training to help evaluate daily needs, develop care plans, address safety concerns, and explore living arrangements for patients with long-term medical conditions, disabilities, and special needs. Many Independent Patient Advocates who specialize in Special Care and Aging are adept at organizing household affairs and facilitating patient participation in physical, social, cultural, and educational activities that can help to improve the overall quality of life for patients with special care needs.

Patients and loved ones struggling with life-changing health conditions such as cancer, limb loss, rare disease, and PTSD can benefit from Survivor Support Advocates who understand exactly what they are going through. These caring professionals share their experiences and perspectives to provide knowledge, emotional assistance, practical help, and social interaction that is beyond the capacity of the health system.

Survivor Support Advocates

Survivor Support Advocacy is another important specialty within the field of Independent Patient Advocacy. Survivors have firsthand experience living with disabilities, rare or chronic diseases, genetic disorders, and traumatic injuries. They provide a necessary outlet for patients to express anxiety and fear without judgment, and they can recognize and celebrate milestones and accomplishments only a survivor can appreciate.

In fact, most patients who have experienced a life-changing injury or diagnosis know that friends and family can provide much-needed encouragement and support when the trauma is fresh. But, when the dust settles and reality sets in, the real challenges begin. Survivor Support Advocates can have an immediate and lasting impact on the lives of patients and families struggling to accept or adapt to the individual challenges that linger long after the course of treatment is finished.

Now that you are familiar with the benefits of hiring an Independent Patient Advocate, reaching out for help should be an easy decision – especially if you are unable to arrange a home doctor visit.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why isn’t it a good idea to advocate for yourself during a health crisis or emergency?

Patients and their loved ones are always at a disadvantage when it comes to making decisions about medical care. A complicated diagnosis, unexpected decline in health, or traumatic injury can make it nearly impossible for patients and families to advocate for themselves. There are barriers and obstacles around every corner. Sometimes it’s hard getting answers to the most basic questions.

Advocating for yourself as a patient is often problematic for several reasons. First, our healthcare system is complex and intimidating. It can be extremely challenging for patients and their loved ones to make informed decisions, especially during periods of uncertainty like when it’s time to be discharged or when it’s unclear whether a test or procedure will be approved.

Furthermore, patients don’t always have access to everything they need in order to make informed decisions, such as their complete medical records, information about treatment options, and the availability of clinical trials.

These factors can make it extremely difficult for patients and their families to effectively advocate for themselves. The right Independent Patient Advocate, however, can step in, take charge, and help patients and loved ones speak up when friends and family just aren’t enough.

Independent Patient Advocates are in private practice, working directly for patients and their loved ones, they are free from many of the internal restrictions that often limit the time and resources available for doctors, nurses, and clinicians to provide safe, individualized, and coordinated care. Although many hospitals and healthcare institutions employ their own so-called patient advocates, they are beholden to the restrictions placed on them.
Independent Patient Advocates work one-on-one with patients and loved ones to oversee care, explore treatment options, and improve communication with overworked hospital staff. A professional Independent Patient Advocate has the knowledge, experience, and training to step in, listen, gather information, identify areas of concern and take charge by recommending the best plan of action. In fact, many Independent Patient Advocates used to work for hospitals and health care companies before they decided to work directly for patients.

Health insurance generally does not cover independent patient advocates because they are not considered to be medically necessary services. Independent patient advocates are individuals who help patients navigate the healthcare system, advocate for their rights, and ensure that their healthcare needs are met. They can be helpful for patients who are facing complex medical situations or who may need assistance in communicating with their healthcare team. However, because these services are not directly related to the medical treatment of a specific condition, they are not covered by most health insurance plans.
It is worth noting that some health insurance plans may offer certain advocacy services as part of their coverage. For example, some plans may provide a patient advocate who can help with insurance-related issues or can provide guidance on navigating the healthcare system. However, these services are typically provided by the insurance company itself or through a contracted provider, rather than an independent patient advocate.
If you are interested in hiring an independent patient advocate, you may need to pay for their services out of pocket. Some patient advocates may offer sliding scale fees based on your income or may offer discounts for certain groups, such as seniors or military veterans. Alternatively, you may be able to find a patient advocate who is willing to work on a pro bono basis or who will accept payment in the form of trade or other non-monetary compensation.

More and more employers are including Employee Assistance Programs (EAP’s) as an employee benefit. These programs may pay for Independent Patient Advocacy in the event of a medical emergency. These programs usually also cover the spouses of employees. You should check your employee handbook or inquire with your company’s benefits team to see if there in an Employee Assistance Program in place.