Your family is everything to you, and this means their health and well-being is always on your mind. But how do you ensure that this health and well-being is protected in the long term? How do you help your loved ones to navigate the often difficult world of healthcare with dignity and confidence?

This is where a patient advocate can provide both you and your family member with the peace of mind you need. This advocate is an experienced professional with extensive knowledge of the healthcare industry. They’ll serve as a guide to your loved one during the treatment and healthcare process.

In this article, we’ll explore this in more detail. We’ll examine exactly what a patient advocate does for you and your family member, as well as how to get the right patient advocate for your loved one’s needs. Read on to discover more.

What Does a Patient Advocate Do?

A patient advocate essentially serves as a point of contact between patients and healthcare providers. This advocate will assist with communication between your family member and the providers themselves, working on behalf of the patient to ensure the proper care is received. As healthcare issues are often confusing and overwhelming, this is an important service that helps to secure the best levels of healthcare possible.

This patient advocate may be a nurse, social worker or hospital chaplain if they are provided by a hospital. Alternatively, they may be an independent patient advocate working on a freelance contract, or they may be provided by an organization based in the community. All registered advocates should be professionals with recognized industry accreditations in healthcare. Across all these different classes of patient advocate, the role is largely the same — to serve as an expert intermediary for your loved one. However, the type of service they deliver may be different. We’ll explore this further below.

Types of Patient Advocacy

What are the different types of advocates, and what are some examples of patient advocacy in action? Take a look at some of the primary advocate categories.

  • Institution-specific advocacy — This will be delivered by a person familiar with the procedures and treatments of a specific hospital, clinic or other institution
  • Specialized advocacy — Advocacy delivered by a professional experienced in a specific field of medical treatment, such as cancer treatment
  • Billing and insurance advocacy — Delivered by a professional experienced in dealing with healthcare payers and similar entities
  • Healthcare coordination advocacy — Advocacy designed to bring together and coordinate treatments from a range of different providers, perhaps healthcare payer entities
  • General advocacy — Delivered by a professional who works with your family member to help them navigate the general field of healthcare, perhaps in the long term

When to Call a Patient Advocate

As with any other aspect of healthcare, it’s important to know when you should seek help and assistance. With this in mind, which situations would lead your family member to need a patient advocate? There are a number of different scenarios when this might be appropriate:

  • Your family member is confused or unsure about the treatments they need.
  • There are a number of different treatment options at different price points.
  • You want to gain extra peace of mind that your familiar member is being taken care of.
  • You are not sure if your family member’s health insurance will cover their treatment.
  • Any situation in which professional healthcare guidance and liaison is necessary.

If you or your loved one encounters any of these scenarios, how do you get a patient advocate that will meet your family member’s needs? Organizations such as the National Association of Healthcare Advocacy can help you find a registered advocate, but you will still need to interview each candidate to ensure they can provide what your family member needs.

Interviewing Patient Advocates

There are many reputable patient advocates out there, with the qualifications and experience required to provide a high-quality service. However, you’ll need to speak with them to ensure they are a good fit for your loved one’s case.

Ask them about the following:

  • What kind of cases have they handled before? Are these cases similar to your family member’s?
  • How long have they been practicing? What professional experience do they have?
  • Which services do they provide? What types of advocacy — including those listed above — are they experienced in?
  • What are their credentials and qualifications? Which professional associations are they members of?
  • What do they charge to deliver advocacy? What payments schedule do they use — for example, an upfront fee or a monthly payment structure?
  • Do they receive any commissions from referrals? Do they favor any particular institutions over others?
  • What insurance do they have? Are they insured for professional liability or errors and omissions?

Choosing a Patient Advocate

Interview questions are highly useful for ascertaining the professional qualifications and experience of a patient advocate, but there is more to consider here. You’ll need to make sure that the patient advocate is able to communicate with your family member freely and easily. Your family member should feel comfortable and happy working with the advocate and should trust them completely. 

Take Your Time Over the Patient Advocate Decision

Whether you need to get a patient advocate in a hospital or are looking for a freelance professional to help your family member navigate healthcare issues, you need to spend time making the right choice. Consider the needs of your loved one, and be ready to ask the advocate questions that will put your mind — and that of your family member — at ease.

To discover more about patient advocates and how to find the right advocacy service for your loved one, head to our resources page, or reach out to our team directly.