Living with Chronic Pain

Who Can Be a Health Care Advocate?


What is patient advocacy?

Patient advocacy is defined as protecting the interest of a patient through various means, including defending their rights, protecting them against inadequate health care, providing support (e.g., financial, legal, emotional, etc.), and contributing to health care decision-making. A patient advocate may also provide caretaking, assist in the navigation of the health care system, and promote patient protection.

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.

Who can be a health care advocate?

A family member, friend, health care employee, or caregiver can be a health care advocate. They may attend doctor appointments, take notes during the appointments, and ask questions. Individuals should choose an advocate they trust. It is also helpful if the advocate is organized, calm, knowledgeable, and comfortable with the task.

Professional health care advocates may be employed by a hospital or health care system. They may also be self-employed and work directly with those who need an advocate. Professional health care advocates are likely to help coordinate patient care, assist with billing and insurance issues, and ensure patients have the information and resources needed. Oftentimes, professional health care advocates have a background in social work, case management, or a medical care setting. They may also have a personal experience with their own illness or the illness of a family member that led them to help others in similar situations.

Health care advocates help ensure patients do not have to make all the decisions alone. Whether the health care advocate is a professional, family member, caregiver, or friend, they can be a great asset.

Additional source: Washington State Health Advocacy Association

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