Whether you're seeking medical treatment for a family member or yourself, managing an illness can be stressful. From doctors' appointments to insurance authorization to medical bills, you may feel like you're juggling too many balls. What if there was someone who could guide you through the process?
Thankfully, there is — a patient advocate.
Patient advocacy is a relatively new term in the health care world. But with the growing complexity of the health care system, a patient advocate can be an invaluable ally and member of your team.
Here's what you need to know about patient advocates and how they can help your health care journey run more smoothly.
1. They're Your Personal Spokesperson
Patient advocates are focused on promoting your rights, whether that's helping you secure an appointment for a second opinion or expressing concern about the quality of care received. They're charged with looking out for your best interests.
2. They're Your Liaison
Patient advocates act as a go-between when communicating with you, your doctor, hospital or health care group, insurance company, and others you may have to coordinate with about your care. They help ensure you have the information and resources you need to make informed decisions and to get the care you need.
3. They Help Cut Through Red Tape
There's no denying that the health care system is complex and confusing. Patient advocates, who are familiar with insurance and health care protocols, can help you understand and navigate through the administrative maze of filing insurance claims or appeals and obtaining the proper authorizations, making things a little easier and less stressful.
4. They Help Voice Your Opinion
When a problem or dispute arises, patient advocacy becomes even more important. The health care system and insurance jargon can become even more overwhelming when this happens, and it can feel like you're talking to a brick wall or constantly hitting a dead end. Patient advocates help you understand your options and make your voice heard.
5. They Link You With the Resources You May Need
Whether it's home health care, elder care, or specialized care like occupational therapy, a patient advocate can connect you to the services you need. When a problem arises, they can also help you link up with arbitration, mediation, negotiation, and even legal services to settle issues related to your medical treatment, such as access to care, medical debt, billing, or insurance disputes. If you're experiencing financial issues, some may even link you to financial support programs or available resources to help with payment and debt management. Some patient advocates may even work with your employer if you're having a hard time retaining your job due to your medical condition.
A patient advocate can be a powerful ally in your health care journey. If you have a concern about medical services you've received, a referral, or a billing issue, reach out to your doctor or nurse and ask if a patient advocate is available to you. Some are employed by the hospital or health care system, while others may work through a nonprofit organization such as the Patient Advocate Foundation.