Living with Chronic Pain

How to be a Health Care Advocate for Someone With Chronic Pain


What is health care advocacy?

Health care advocates provide assistance to individuals as they navigate the health care system. This can include health insurance benefits, medications, physician appointments, hospital stays, etc. They may also help with specific situations, such as the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Health care advocates are especially beneficial to the elderly population.

How to be a health care advocate for someone with chronic pain

Individuals with chronic pain often feel misunderstood and struggle to receive adequate treatment. A health care advocate can defend their rights, protect them against inadequate health care, provide support, and contribute to health care decision-making as they maneuver the health care system.

Six ways to act as a health care advocate for someone with chronic pain include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Provide support. Individuals with chronic pain are frequently made to feel that their pain is psychological. Validating their pain and expressing a genuine desire to help them receive pain relief are important steps in being an effective health care advocate.
  • Learn about potential barriers. Researching and learning about the barriers for chronic pain treatment is the best way to recognize when they exist and work to remove them. Barriers vary widely, but may include lack of insurance coverage, negative attitudes towards those with chronic pain, and inadequate education and training for medical professionals. Additional barriers include stereotypes or geographic barriers that prevent individuals from receiving adequate treatment, or laws and policies that prevent medically appropriate use of prescription pain medications.
  • Coordinate care. If needed, a health care advocate can coordinate care and communication among the individual’s health care team. This includes primary care physicians, pain specialists, physical therapists, psychologists, or integrative or alternative medicine providers. Working with insurance providers can ensure that coverage is adequate for the condition.
  • Interpret and utilize health care information. Learning about the chronic pain condition and the care that is needed contributes to better outcomes. Assistance with understanding and applying health care information is also beneficial.
  • Speak up. If the individual in pain is not taken seriously, it may be necessary to speak up on their behalf. A health care advocate can verify the validity of the pain, describe its severity, and explain the impact on the person’s life.
  • Advocate for systemic changes. Health care advocates can work towards systemic changes surrounding chronic pain. An example includes writing letters to policymakers on behalf of the person with chronic pain who is not receiving adequate treatment due to policies or regulations.

Additional sources: Chronic Pain Research Alliance, Colorado Pain Care, and The Pain Community

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