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Safeguarding the Trust in Healthcare: The Vital Role of Patient Advocates

Safeguarding the Trust in Healthcare: The Vital Role of Patient Advocates

Safeguarding the Trust in Healthcare: The Vital Role of Patient Advocates

Posted on July 30, 2023

The doctor-patient relationship - the cornerstone of quality healthcare built on trust, empathy, and personalized attention - is in jeopardy.

The landscape of primary care in the US is undergoing a subtle but significant transformation. An increasing number of primary care physicians are shifting from independent practices to hospital-owned services or large comprehensive independent physician groups or corporations. While this trend may offer certain advantages in terms of resource access and administrative support, it continues to raise concerns about the potential implications on the doctor-patient relationship.

Increasing numbers of primary care physicians are leaving – driven out by corporatization, growing time pressure, and the inability to form the relationships that allow for good care. Others are moving to hospital-owned, large comprehensive independent physician groups or corporations. Time spent with patients is scrutinized.

At stake is patient continuity as concerns arise about potential disruptions to the doctor-patient relationship. Hospital-owned practices dictate how they want things done, often at the expense of the doctor and patient relationship.

Primary care practitioners are being forced to get patients in and get them transferred to money-making specialists. Patients are now scheduled in 15-minute increments, which most likely is fine if you’ve got a sore throat, confirmed in the office with a positive strep test. A prescription for an antibiotic, and you are on your way. Not so great, though, if you are a 78-year-old, not feeling well, not as sharp as you used to be, and have 5 or 6 diagnosed medical conditions. Try to effectively take care of this person’s needs in 15 minutes.

Prior to the Affordable Care Act, a yearly physical would have a 60-minute time slot. Today it is most likely a 20-minute appointment. On a daily basis, more and more patients are leaving their doctor’s visits without having their healthcare needs addressed.

Less time comes at the expense of physician autonomy and the personalized care that patients cherish. Standardized protocols and increased administrative demands are straining doctor-patient interactions, leaving patients feeling unheard and physicians with limited time for meaningful engagement.

The need for patient advocates has become more crucial than ever to preserve the integrity of this sacred relationship. Patient advocates play a pivotal role in empowering patients, navigating complexities, and advocating for personalized care to ensure that patient’s voices are heard above the fray of institutional protocols.

The Vital Role of Patient Advocates:

As patient advocates, our focus is that of being dedicated champions in support of our patient-clients and preserving the doctor-patient relationship, which needs to remain at the heart of primary care. This is achieved through:

1. Empowering Patients: We equip patients with knowledge about their healthcare options, which supports their ability to make individual and well-informed decisions based on their preferences and needs, not necessarily that of the corporation.

2. Navigating Complexities: Hospital-owned practices and large physician groups often present bureaucratic challenges that patients find overwhelming. As patient advocates, we expertly guide our clients through those complexities, ensuring seamless access to necessary care and services.

3. Preserving Personalized Care: By actively listening to clients and knowledge of their medical history, we collaborate with healthcare providers to make sure treatment plans are customized, tailored, and personalized in a manner that allows for patient input and buy-in.

4. Negotiating Patient-Centric Solutions: Those of us with proficiency in negotiating on behalf of our clients do so for patient-centered solutions. Often this involves advocating for more extended appointment times, improved communication channels, and a stronger focus on personalized care.

5. Facilitating Communication: As patient advocates, we act as effective communicators between clients and healthcare providers, helping and supporting our clients to express their concerns, preferences, and needs while facilitating open and transparent communication with their physicians.

6. Advocating for Patients’ Rights: Patient advocates are fierce proponents of patients’ best interests, pushing for better communication, more time with healthcare providers, and improved care coordination.

7. Monitoring Quality of Care: With a continuous focus on safety, we vigilantly monitor the quality of care our clients receive. We assess whether his or her needs are being met and ensure that the level of care remains at the highest standards possible.

8. Emotional Support: Patient advocates provide emotional support to patients during any challenging transition. We understand the stress and uncertainty patients may experience by offering reassurance and guidance throughout the journey.

9. Identifying Alternative Care Options: In some cases, our clients may choose not to transition with their primary care physicians or may seek alternative care settings. We help to identify and explore suitable options that align with his or her preferences and medical needs.

Safeguarding the doctor-patient relationship is paramount for delivering patient-centered, high-quality healthcare. The multifaceted roles of patient advocates – empowerment, navigation, negotiation, facilitation, monitoring, and others listed above, position us to stand as essential allies in upholding the core values of compassionate care and individualized attention that have been pushed to the wayside.

Our commitment and dedication empower patients and providers with clarity in navigating the healthcare system and ensure that patient’s voices are not lost in the face of institutional or corporate demands.

While it is inevitable that healthcare continues to evolve, patient advocates will continue to play an increasingly vital role in maintaining the doctor-patient relationship, driving positive change, and securing a future where once again, patients are protected, guarded, sheltered, and shielded – where their needs and wellbeing always come first.

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