What Is a Professional Patient Advocate?

A “patient advocate” can be described in many different ways, but the best way is simply someone who assists another person in need of healthcare assistance.  The advocate might be a spouse, a child, a friend, a neighbor, a doctor, or a nurse.  All of these individuals are potential patient advocates when they assist a patient in improving their health status; however, they are not always prepared professionals and in a crisis may not have the resources to respond appropriately.  A professional advocate will have the patient’s best interest in mind at all times.

Professional patient advocates perform a variety of tasks depending upon the specific advocate.  These tasks can range from accompanying a patient to a doctor’s appointment to setting up medications in the home to avoid medication errors to overall coordination of care for a chronic disease.  Or, a patient advocate might sit by a patient’s bedside if they have no family in town, assist with billing issues or help them choose a physician when new to an area.

There are multiple ways patient advocates can assist an individual through today’s complicated healthcare maze.  These include the following, but are not limited to:

  • Accompany patients to medical appointments to reinforce information and ensure better compliance with physician orders
  • Visit patients while in the hospital
  • Prepare a patient/family for a scheduled hospitalization/surgery
  • Assist with medication management in the home to ensure a patient takes the correct medication avoid errors
  • Educate patients about medical diagnoses/treatment options
  • Coordinate overall healthcare when dealing with chronic diseases and/or multiple medical conditions
  • Assist patients in locating a physician when new to an area or when simply in need of a new physician or a second opinion
  • Assist family members with making difficult health-related decisions for a loved one
  • Assist with medical billing issues, filing insurance claims, disputing claims
  • Assist with navigating the healthcare insurance maze such as filing disability insurance or assistance with a longterm insurance plan
  • Assist with senior placement; ie, assisted living placement, skilled care placement, or memory care placement
  • Help locate legal assistance regarding medical errors in healthcare

Professional patient advocates are trained to know what questions to ask, and to whom to direct those questions to.  They are very familiar with the healthcare resources in and around the area in which both they and their clients live, and are connected to many resources in other areas as well.  As you can see, patient advocates are a great asset to have on your side.