Patient Advocate Meaning
Patient advocate is a person who assists patients in navigating the healthcare system. This includes assistance with screening, diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up for diseases like cancer. A patient advocate assists patients in communicating with their healthcare providers so that they can obtain the information they require to make health care decisions.
Also, patient advocates may assist patients in obtaining financial, legal, and social support as well as scheduling doctor’s appointments and medical tests. They might collaborate with insurance companies, employers, lawyers, case managers, and other people who might have an impact on the healthcare requirements of a patient.
A trained professional known as a patient advocate acts as a mediator between patients, their families, and representatives of the healthcare system.
In hospitals where medical practitioners work on shift, it can mean daily interactions with new doctors and nurses and communication with medical professionals can be difficult. Making the best decision for a patient can be stressful and challenging too especially for those without a medical background when there are questions about treatment plans.
This is where a patient advocate comes in, giving patients a choice when looking for assistance.
Depending on the needs of the patient and the advocate’s area of expertise, patient advocates can assist patients and their families by providing different services. They might assist them in securing health care, managing insurance, or choosing a treatment plan.
They may also provide medical advice as part of their services. Advocates can assist with decision-making by reviewing diagnoses, treatment options, tests, medications, and medical records including financial or insurance advice. Particularly, they might be able to help with choosing the right insurance, understanding how insurance works, filing and managing insurance claims, and looking over medical bills. They might advocate for moral or legal issues. Living wills, advanced directives, disability or worker’s compensation, and malpractice can all be aided by advocates. They might also assist with elder care.
Some patient advocates concentrate on elderly care. They can also assist people with exploring Government medical care.
Patient Advocacy In Healthcare
The position of professional patient advocate is relatively new and contributes to the advocacy care gap. The majority of patient advocates have a background in healthcare or industries related to healthcare, such as insurance, although there are currently no specific standards or requirements for patient advocates. The majority of them have worked as social workers, nurses, physicians, or care managers.
Patient advocates can receive training and certification from many private organizations, but none of these programs are recognized as a national or international credential. Also, certificate programs in patient advocacy are now been offered by some universities.
The process of advocating on behalf of patients, survivors, and caregivers is known as patient advocacy. The patient advocate may be an individual or an organization that is concerned with specific disorders or healthcare standards. Individual advocates who provide services that are also provided by organizations can be referred to as patient advocates so also can organizations whose responsibilities extend to individual patients. There are independent patient advocates and advocates who work for organizations that are directly responsible for the patient’s care.
Examples of typical advocacy activities include: Protecting patients from mistakes, misconduct, and incompetence. Patient advocacy gives patients, survivors, and their caregivers a voice on (public) healthcare-related forums, educating the public, the political and regulatory world, health care providers (hospitals, insurers, pharmaceutical companies, etc.), patient rights, matters of privacy, confidentiality, or informed consent, patient representation, awareness building, support, and education organizations comprised of medical and pharmaceutical researchers, educational institutions, and healthcare professionals.
History Of Patient Advocacy
The history of Patient advocacy is quite an interesting one. At a time when hospital stays were lengthy and acute conditions like heart disease, stroke, and cancer contributed to the boom in hospital growth, patient advocates—also known as patient representatives—were required to safeguard and enhance patients’ rights.
At the time, advocates for health care reform criticized this expansion by citing Roemer’s Law: A built hospital bed is likely to be used, and radical health analysts coined the term “health empires” to describe the growing power of these large teaching institutions that linked hospital care and medical education, putting one in the service of the other and possibly losing the focus on the patient. As a result, it was not surprising that patient advocacy, like patient care, focused on the hospital stay.
On the other hand, health advocacy took a more critical view of a health care system in which power was concentrated at the top in large medical teaching centers and the medical profession dominated. Patient advocacy in the United States began in the 1950s in the context of cancer research and treatment.
As the Patient Rights movement developed in the 1970s, the United States also played a significant role in patient advocacy. The National Welfare Rights Organization’s (NWRO) materials for a patient’s bill of rights, which were used as a major advocacy organization at the time, had an impact on many other organizations and writings such as the American Hospital Association’s Patient Bill of Rights in 1972 and the Joint Commission’s hospital accreditation standards in 1970. The use of advocates by individual patients became more popular in the early 2000s in the United States and Australia ten years later.
However, this concept still seems new to other countries.
There are processes in patient advocacy, three specifically, on a conceptual level: valuing, expressing concern, and intervening.
Why Is Patient Advocacy Important
Probing further, Advocacy on behalf of patients includes:
- Providing patients with information and guiding them through the treatment of their disease. Depending on the patient, the social determinants of health may differ significantly. The patient advocate’s job is to meet the needs of the patient and help them with things like where to find treatment to manage their illness, how to get healthcare because of socioeconomic barriers, or how to find more health services. Helping patients manage their illnesses or diseases can also include helping them buy health care supplies together.
- Developing a contact network.
- Providing patients with emotional support in dealing with their health concerns, illnesses, and chronic conditions in the public sector (political and regulatory). When managing their illnesses, patients and survivors experience the direct effect of their disease on their quality of life and may also go through difficult phases of adaptation of their daily routine and lifestyle to accommodate the disease. Hence, the role of patient advocates can include providing emotional support for patients or connecting them to mental health resources. The National Institute of Mental Health states that patients with chronic illnesses are at a higher risk of depression than patients with other mental health conditions.
- Going to a patient’s appointments with them. Doctor’s appointments can be confusing for patients. Differences in language proficiency, educational background, or health literacy experience may contribute to this. A patient advocate’s presence can ensure that patients’ concerns are brought to the attention of physicians and properly addressed to the understanding of the patient.
- Assisting with health insurance and other healthcare-related financial matters. Health insurance plays a significant role in the financing system, according to the Institute of Medicine in the United States. Fragmentation of the U.S. health care delivery and financing system is a barrier to accessing care. A survey conducted by United Health found that only 9% of Americans understood the terms associated with health insurance. Given the significance of health insurance in facilitating access to healthcare, the patient advocate may assist with plan selection or research.
Patient Advocacy Organizations
There are organizations that advocate on behalf of patients.
Patient advocacy organizations, also known as PAOs or Patient advocacy groups represent the interests of individuals who suffer from a particular disease. Through lobbying, patient advocacy organizations may influence national health policy and fund research. The American Heart Association, the National Organization for Rare Disorders, and the American Cancer Society are few examples.
Pharmaceutical companies give money to some patient advocacy groups.
The following are few of the organizations.
- The Alliance of Professional Health Advocates (APHA) is an international membership organization for private, professional patient advocates and those who are considering becoming private advocates. One of the goals of market access groups at pharmaceutical and medical device companies is to identify these individuals and persuade them. It also provides a public directory of advocates who are members of the organization called AdvoConnection. It provides marketing, legal, and insurance services to businesses. The Patient Advocacy Compass Award was established in 2011 following the death of Ken Schueler, a charter member of the APHA who was referred to as “the Father of Private Patient Advocacy.
- The Patient Ambassador program, through their grassroots advocacy campaigns works to train effective advocates for dialysis-related issues through conference calls and briefings. Membership is free.
- National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants (NAHAC) is a non-profit organization in Berkeley, California. On July 15, 2009, Joanna Smith established NAHAC as a broad, grassroots organization for patient advocacy and health care.
- The National Patient Advocate Foundation is a non-profit organization in the United States devoted to improving access to, and reimbursement for high-quality healthcare through regulatory and legislative reform at the state and federal levels. It is a multi-stakeholder organization with public membership which provides professional case management services to Americans with chronic, life-threatening, and debilitating illnesses.