Professional Patient Advocates
Patient advocates help people through the health care system.
If you do not have a family member or friend (or group of them) who can act as your patient advocate, you can hire a professional patient advocate.
It is advisable to take care when hiring a person who call him or herself a professional patient advocate because anyone can call themselves a patient advocate. Patient advocates are not licensed, and there is no national certification program.
Since there is no standard definition of a "Patient Advocate," services will vary from person to person.
Services Provided By A Professional Patient Advocate
In general, patient advocates can:
- Help you locate a doctor and get an appointment.
- Go with you to appointments to help ask questions and remember what was said.
- Help coordinate care between doctors.
- Research treatment options.
- File medical paper work.
- Help convince an insurer to pay for the care you want.
- Stay with you in a hospital to help you get the medical care you need, avoid medical errors and reduce the chance of infection.
How to locate a professional patient advocate
It can be difficult to locate a qualified professional patient advocate because there are no licensing requirements and no group which certifies patient advocates.
To locate a qualified professional patient advocate, try the following:
- In general: Contact:
- Your doctor and/or the doctor's staff.
- Local disease specific non-profit organizations - whether they relate to your health condition or not.
- If you are employed by a large employer, check wtih your employer. Many large employers contract with cmpanies to provide patient advocates for employees.
- Members of your support group.
- The nonprofit Patient Advocate Foundation which provides free services on a case-by-case basis. Tel.: 800.532.5274, www.patientadvocate.org
- Alliance of Professional Health Care Advocates which can help you find a professional patient advocate at: http://advoconnection.com
- If you are employed: check to see whether your company provides patient advocacy or if the HR department has a suggestion of how to find a good patient advocate.
- If you are in a hospital or nursing home:
- Check to see whether there is an in-house patient advocate. An in-house advocate is frequently referred to as an Ombundsman.
- Keep in mind the person is employed and paid by the hospital or nursing home so there may be a conflict of interest.
What To Do When Hiring A Professional Patient Advocate
When considering hiring a professional patient advocate, at least:
- Learn about the person's education. A college degree is helpful.
- Get a copy of the person's resume. Pay particular attention to the person's training and professional experience that enables him or her to be knowledgeable, ethical and effective.
- Ask about the experience the person has with situations such as yours.
- Ask for at least 2 references - and actually check them.
- Ask about costs. Get the answer in writing. For instance, ask about the person's fees, any expected expenses, and an estimate of the total cost of the services you need.
NOTE: Before hiring a professional patient advocate, check with your hospital, employer and insurance company to find out if they can provide a free patient advocate or free patient advocacy services. If you do locate a free professional, confirm with the person that he or she will act in your interests rather than the interest of his or her employer.