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A guide encourages the heart, educates the head, and empowers the hands.

A guide encourages the heart, educates the head, and empowers the hands.

A guide encourages the heart, educates the head, and empowers the hands.

Posted on June 3, 2023

As a patient advocate, I am often asked about my role in the healthcare system. Simply put, I am part of the emerging practice of advocacy and navigation in today’s beyond-challenging healthcare system.

I am acutely aware of the complexities, fragmentation, high costs, and potential dangers that exist in the healthcare landscape. This is precisely why patient advocacy is gaining recognition and importance - patients and their caregivers have come to realize the need for expert assistance and support when navigating the complex healthcare system and interacting with insurance companies.

The healthcare system is a comprehensive framework that encompasses all aspects of healthcare delivery, including medical care. Its complexity often overwhelms patients, making it difficult for them to comprehend the intricacies of their medical conditions, treatment options, and available resources. Different providers, specialists, and institutions often operate in silos, leading to disjointed and disconnected care. Patient advocates step in as knowledgeable and experienced guides, helping patients and their caregivers understand the complexities and supporting their ability to make individual and well-informed decisions about their care.

Many professional patient advocates have first-hand experience of the burden of the financial cost of healthcare. We help patients navigate the complexities of insurance coverage, billing processes, and financial assistance programs. Support in understanding healthcare expenses, exploring cost-saving options, and questioning medical bills to ensure accuracy and fairness. My focus for clients is to alleviate some of the financial stress and ensure the patient[i] has access to the needed resources for their care.

Patient advocacy also recognizes that the healthcare system can be inherently risky, with potential dangers and errors. Advocates work diligently to enhance patient safety by promoting effective communication, encouraging shared decision-making, and advocating for the implementation of patient-centered practices. When needed, we serve as a voice for the patient, making sure their concerns are heard and their rights to safe and quality care are protected.

In a word, patient advocacy is about empowerment – providing the patient with the necessary information and tools to make informed decisions about their health. It is the advocate’s responsibility to provide the necessary information and resources to navigate the healthcare system with confidence. As the guide, I help the patient understand their rights as a patient and ensure their voice is heard and respected.

Ultimately, patient advocacy is about putting the patient at the center of their healthcare journey (which is where they should be). As the advocate, I support, be an ally and ensure that needs, concerns, and preferences are heard and respected.

Patient advocacy also extends beyond the individual patient. It encompasses efforts to drive systemic changes, address healthcare disparities, and advocate for policies that prioritize patient-centered care, equity, and improved outcomes for all individuals.

The role of a patient advocate is multifaceted, requiring a diverse range of skills and qualities to effectively support and represent patients in the complex healthcare environment.

Among these attributes, being calm is essential when facing challenging and potentially overwhelming situations. We are adept at managing our emotions and maintaining a composed demeanor, particularly in the face of uncertainty or stressful circumstances.

By staying calm, patient advocates think critically, respond thoughtfully, and provide a sense of reassurance and stability to patients and their families. This emotional resilience allows us to approach each situation with a clear and focused mindset, fostering a supportive and empathetic environment.

We also excel in organizational skills, recognizing the importance of maintaining meticulous records, managing schedules, and coordinating various aspects of a client’s healthcare journey. We use a systematic approach to information management, ensuring that important documents, medical histories, and relevant details are readily available and well-organized. Organization is required to navigate the complexities of healthcare seamlessly, track progress, and facilitate effective communication among healthcare providers and patients.

Assertiveness is another crucial quality that distinguishes the best patient advocates. We are confident in our abilities to advocate for patient rights and needs. There is no hesitation in communicating these concerns to healthcare providers, insurance companies, and other relevant parties. We understand the importance of being proactive, voicing our opinions, and actively participating in the decision-making process. We champion patient autonomy supporting the patient’s ability to make individual, well-informed decisions and actively engage in their healthcare decisions.

Professional patient advocates, we are comfortable and skilled in asking pertinent questions. We understand that asking questions is a powerful tool for gathering information, seeking clarity, and advocating for the best possible care. We know how to navigate complex medical terminology, inquire about treatment options, and request explanations to ensure patients and their families are well-informed. We are skilled at asking insightful questions to facilitate open and effective communication, fostering a collaborative relationship between patients, their healthcare providers, and the healthcare team.

The best patient advocates embody a combination of qualities that enable the provision of invaluable support and representation to patients. At the end of the day, it all comes down to empowering patients to make informed decisions, navigate complex healthcare processes, and advocate for their own well-being.

[i] The patient can be the client or a family member of the client.

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