Whether it’s due to a busy schedule or a lack of knowledge of the healthcare industry, caring for a loved one during and after their stay in hospital can be difficult. It takes a lot of patience, endurance, and persistence to navigate the complex healthcare environment and ensure that your or your loved ones’ needs and patient rights are being met throughout the process.
It’s for these reasons that healthcare advocates exist. A patient advocacy service can provide you with information on hospital and post-hospital care, communicate with physicians and other professionals, and ensure that your patient rights are respected.
What Are the Benefits of a Patient Advocate?
While we will go into more detail on the role of a healthcare advocate, here’s a quick list of some of the key benefits of a patient advocate if you or a loved one is under the care of a healthcare facility:
They’re experts at managing medical communications.
Physicians and other healthcare professionals typically have strong academic backgrounds and experience in developing their communication skills. However, between dealing with a stressful diagnosis and understanding medical jargon, as a patient, it can be hard to communicate effectively in a healthcare environment.
That’s why the best patient advocates will be your go-between when attending appointments or trying to understand documentation provided by a physician. Advocates are also experienced in knowing what questions are best to ask.
They can help you navigate employment and insurance issues.
Receiving a diagnosis is stressful enough without having to worry about what to tell your employer. In addition to helping manage communications with your place of work, patient advocates can also assist in areas where insurance may be impacted by your employment situation.
They’ll organize and monitor your use of medications.
Depending on a diagnosis, patients can find themselves suddenly having to remember a complex schedule of medication or treatments. In some cases, you may find it hard to remember all of your prescribed treatments.
Alternatively, you may need day-to-day assistance in coping with them. Patient advocates can ensure that you’re taking your prescribed medication and managing the other aspects of your care.
They can provide expert advice on family and legal issues.
In case of serious illness, a medical power of attorney may be required. This is a stressful time, both for patients and their families, and it’s a unique situation that few will be prepared for. Healthcare advocates have experience in these legal matters, which means that they can assist with legal documentation, attorney meetings, and understanding the process as a whole.
They are logistical experts.
There are many conditions that require collaborative input and treatment from a range of specialists or healthcare providers. This is an area that can quickly become confusing or suffer breakdowns in communication.
Healthcare advocates can help in this area by scheduling and tracking appointments, monitoring tests, arranging for transportation, and ensuring that paperwork is provided and understood. They can help to ensure your continuity of care over a longer period, especially when it’s involving multiple providers.
What Is the Role of a Healthcare Advocate?
A healthcare advocate is your bridge between you and your family, and the institution and professionals providing your care. Your advocate can offer you help with navigating the intricacies of the healthcare system, including facilitating your access to care, arming you with the information you need to make decisions, and assisting with insurance, payment, and other administrative tasks.
Depending on your unique needs, you might employ the help of a healthcare advocate for different services. As such, advocates may specialize in a number of areas of healthcare.
Medical care advocate services are some of the most common used by patients. Healthcare advocates providing medical care navigation will usually take on tasks such as:
- Setting up and handling healthcare appointments with you or on your behalf
- Handling communication with your healthcare providers
- Comprehensively understanding your patient rights and ensuring that they’re being met
- Translating complex, confusing medical information into an easily digestible format
- Explaining potential diagnoses and conditions to you in a way that you can understand
- Coordinating between different medical specialists for ongoing care
Concerns regarding health insurance are very common, and the best healthcare advocates will be able to provide a range of assistance in this area. This includes:
- Helping you to understand what treatments are covered by your insurance plan, or under Medicare or veteran benefit programs
- Advising on out-of-network and in-network treatment and provider options available to you
- Walking you through copays and coinsurance, and how each of these work
- Advising on insurance policies, health plans, and coverage
- Providing information on wellness benefits and other useful services, including preventive care
Some healthcare advocates will be experienced in providing help navigating legal aspects of healthcare. This might include helping you with disability filings or advising you on your legal rights as a patient. Some advocates can also help you understand your rights if you’ve received poor-quality care within a hospital or other care facility.
Older Adult Services
Healthcare advocates for older adults provide services that are suited to those requiring assistance with day-to-day life — for example, home care, transportation, arrangements for meals, and supported housing.
Some healthcare advocates specialize in helping you or your loved one’s source suitable placements for ongoing post-hospital care. This might include assisting you with the hospital discharge process or leading the transfer between a hospital and a nursing home, rehabilitation facility, or assisted living center.
Why Is Healthcare Advocacy Important?
Healthcare advocates work on both an individual and systemic level. While individual healthcare advocates help you to navigate the healthcare system and protect your rights, large-scale advocacy focuses on trying to improve the wider healthcare system for the patients who need to access it.
Individual Healthcare Advocacy
Becoming ill and requiring care from physicians is a stressful time. Simultaneously attempting to navigate an unfamiliar, confusing, and sometimes unreliable healthcare industry can often compound that stress. This is at a time when you are also expected to make decisions about your health while worrying about the financial aspects of receiving care.
This is why individual healthcare advocacy exists. An experienced healthcare advocate can take over the time-consuming and worrisome administrative tasks, allowing you to focus on undergoing and recovering from your care. Remember, while some patients are supported by family or friends, others don’t have a support network to rely on.
Large-Scale Healthcare Advocacy
Beyond individual healthcare advocacy, there are agencies trying to effect change on a national scale. Large-scale healthcare advocacy provides guidance to lawmakers who implement new legislation and policies within the healthcare industry. This encourages a well-informed process that respects patients’ rights and draws on first-hand experience of the industry.
Where large-scale advocacy is a success, it ensures that any new policies contribute to the improvement of both individual and community health. It reduces barriers to care and discrimination.
Why Is Helping With the Discharge Process a Part of Patient Advocacy?
The reason why discharge planning is important in the broader scope of a patient advocate’s role is because of the implications of leaving the hospital. At this stage in your care, you may have new medications, diet plans, scheduled follow-up appointments, and information to digest. This comes at a time when you’re already dealing with the emotional stress involved in chronic illness or injury.
A hospital discharge healthcare advocate will help ensure that this transition goes as smoothly as possible. They can provide much-needed emotional support while taking on the burden of managing new habits or schedules until they become easier to handle. Not only is this one of the most important times to use the services of a healthcare advocate, but discharge planning is also one of the areas that’s understood to have the greatest chance of reducing avoidable readmissions to the hospital.
Find the Best Healthcare Advocates in Charlotte, NC
Hopefully, you’ve gained a good understanding of the role of a healthcare advocate and why they are a crucial form of support for many patients undergoing care. If you’re looking for healthcare advocates in Charlotte, NC, consider reaching out to Care Weavers.