Doctor appointments, hospitals, surgeries, procedures, insurance companies, medical bills...being ill can be overwhelming. Not everyone is good at advocating for themselves or may feel lost amongst all of the information. There are people who can help you navigate the system and your options, they’re called patient advocates.
A patient advocate is someone who is by your side to ask your doctors and other caregivers the right questions on your behalf, take down information, ensure you understand your options and then make sure they happen. It’s like having a spokesperson or a campaigner for you and your health. The best patient advocates are trustworthy, knowledgeable about health care, assertive and good verbal communicators.
How Do You Find a Patient Advocate?
This could be a spouse, family member, or friend; it can also be a professional who provides this service. Sometimes patient advocates are hospital staffers or nurses or social workers. Anyone who knows enough about health care can ask the right questions and advocate for you.
Who Needs a Patient Advocate?
Anyone can benefit from a patient advocate, but there are some people who have trouble talking with their doctors, billing departments, or insurance companies; whether that be due to shyness, intimidation, “white coat syndrome”, social anxiety, etc.
The demeanor of your medical team can dramatically change once you have a patient advocate. If you are stalled with your medical team or don’t feel you’re being heard, once you’ve enlisted the help of a patient advocate, you may find that your medical team starts to listen because you’ve engaged someone who is taking your health very seriously, so they follow suit.
Patient advocates can also assist with appealing medical costs, setting up payment plans, and lowering overall costs. They may also be able to help get more charges covered by your health insurance.
My Role as a Patient Advocate
I have been an HS patient advocate for nearly 3 decades. Due to my illnesses and being bed bound I have to do everything from home, and due to the HIPAA laws, it has become more tricky to help others, but not impossible. If you find yourself in this particular situation, where your advocate has to speak on your behalf via phone, you will need to have your advocate added to your patient file with your doctor’s office or hospital.
If you need assistance with insurance issues this will include giving your advocate permission to be added on behalf of your account with your insurance company. There is typically a form to fill out for this approval.
Adding your advocate to your patient file is required for them to be able to discuss care with your advocate. They will not just speak with them over the phone without the proper authorization; this is for your protection.
CAUTION: Before you add an advocate to your medical files, please keep in mind that this person will need all of your personal information in order to speak on your behalf. This includes full name, address, date of birth, and possibly the last four digits of your social security number. If your advocate is working on your behalf with your insurance company they will also need your subscriber number. Do not give this information out to just anyone; be sure your patient advocate is someone you can trust and someone you feel comfortable sharing this private information with. If you choose an advocate who is supplied by your hospital or other medical facility they should already have access to this information in their capacity as a patient advocate, so you should not have to provide it to them. This information would only have to be supplied if you choose an advocate not supplied by your hospital or medical facility and it needs to be done via phone.
There are people who specialize in helping you take control of your health, learn more about patient advocates at the resources below:
Top Resources Patient Advocates:
Content in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking treatment because of something you have read on this website.
Written by Denise Panter-Fixsen
Edited by Brindley Kons