When attempting to navigate the healthcare industry as a patient, many individuals find the task to be challenging due to the implicit complexities they may face. From the specifics of their insurance policies to learning about conditions, symptoms, and treatments, patients often feel overwhelmed when they consult a medical professional.
There are a number of advocacy groups that patients can employ to support them, but patients may choose an informal advocate such as a friend, spouse, or family member. Whoever patients choose to be their advocate, they will usually find that these relationships are productive in improving their care and satisfaction.
What Healthcare Advocates Do
The areas in which healthcare advocates provide the most support range from financial to legal. When seeking or receiving medical care, many patients find that they do not fully understand their insurance policies, medical bills, or patient rights.
Healthcare advocates serve as a valuable resource to help educate patients on these things and ensure everything is correct; errors are common in medical billing, so healthcare advocates can assess such documents and challenge any erroneous charges they find. They can also help patients construct a payment plan that limits financial strain and general stress.
In another capacity, healthcare advocates can manage patient concerns and complaints. From minor requests regarding room conditions or attending staff to larger, more urgent concerns relating to conduct, healthcare advocates can speak up for patients and demand action and change when necessary.
Patients may seek a healthcare advocate while receiving direct care, but these individuals can also serve in other capacities regarding medical tourism, pain management, end of life planning, mental health, and social work. Depending on the needs and desires of the patient, a healthcare advocate can be beneficial in many circumstances, providing necessary information, insight, advocacy, and interpersonal connections to medical professionals or even patients with similar conditions.
Benefits of Healthcare Advocates
Beyond providing more information, understanding, and opportunities for education, healthcare advocates can have a positive effect on patients, especially when it comes to long-term care. Naturally, one of the primary benefits a health advocate can provide is more effective, efficient, and personalized patient care; an advocate will be able to speak to medical professionals regarding patient concerns and wishes in order to verify the severity of the patient’s conditions and ensure the care they receive is suitable. Another benefit of healthcare advocacy is a financial one. Validating insurance policies, negotiating with healthcare providers, and challenging billing errors are all tasks advocates can tackle, resulting in lower costs and lessened financial strain. A significant percentage of Americans, nearly 80 million according to one survey, have some sort of medical debt, so reducing the incurred costs for patients is a notable goal for advocates. In tandem with these benefits is the overall reduction of stress. Regardless of why a patient seeks medical care or advice, the experience can be stressful for a number of reasons; they may worry about their health, pending diagnoses, or possible expenses. A healthcare advocate can support patients by communicating with medical professionals and insurance providers to ensure everything is in order, and they can also serve as emotional support should the patient require it.
While the specific duties of a healthcare advocate may vary based on the patient and the circumstances, individuals in this role generally strive to guarantee patients get the right education and receive high-quality care.