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Patient Advocates 101


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The term "Patient Advocate" has a variety of meanings in the health care world. For our purposes, a patient advocate is someone to accompany you to meetings with a doctor or other medical person where there could or will be any discussion about your diagnosis, health, tests and/or treatments. If you are admitted to a hospital, a patient advocate can also help assure that the prescribed medical protocol is adhered to and that there are no lapses in infection control.

Patient advocates can be an important member of your team for the following reasons, among others:

  • Patient advocates can provide comfort during what can be a stressful time getting to,and waiting for, an appointment, test etc. 
  • During a meeting, a patient advocate can serve a variety of roles, including helping to ask questions you don't think of or are too embarrassed to ask, take notes and/or make a recording of the meeting so you can replay it later to be sure you didn't miss anything. 
  • After the meeting, a patient advocate can help you recall what was said during the appointment and to keep it in perspective. Sudies show that patients tend to forget half of what is said during an appointment with a doctor.

A patient advocate is generally a family member or friend. 

Do not choose a person to be patient advocate just because he or she offers. It is preferable to pick a person who is right for the role in order to get the most benefit.

Consider speaking with the person up front about what role you want the person to play. If necessary, you can remind the person of the role while waiting for the meeting.

If no one is available, consider hiring a professional patient advocate, at least for the meeting where your diagnosis and/or treatment options will be discussed.

NOTE: If you want the person to be able to speak directly with medical personnel when you are not present, it will be necessary to sign an authorization because of the privacy law generally referred to as HIPAA. Medical facilities and doctors usually have HIPAA forms readily available. We provide an authorization letter that you can carry with you "just in case."

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