When I decided to start my own patient advocacy practice a few months ago, I mentioned my plan to some friends. The most common response was: what is a patient advocate?
You likely haven’t heard of a patient advocate, either. But you’ll be hearing more and more about patient advocacy over the next few years.
Patient advocacy is an up-and-coming profession that has arisen out of a need for patients and their families to have access to safe and high-quality care in the ever-changing U.S. healthcare system. There are now professional organizations for healthcare advocates as well as a specialized board certification for those who pass an exam.
So, what is a patient advocate?
When asked, I explain that a patient advocate helps clients navigate the fragmented and confusing healthcare landscape by attending appointments, explaining and researching diagnoses and treatments, coordinating care between providers, reviewing and negotiating bills, performing medication reviews, appealing insurance denials, and so much more.
As healthcare grows increasingly expensive and families become more spread out, the need for advocates grows. Adult children who live across the country from their aging parents seek advocates to step in for physician appointments and medication management when they can’t be present. New drugs and treatments make understanding therapies more confusing and costly; patients look to advocates to help explain options, identify resources, and work with insurance companies so they can access the care they need.
Like many patient advocates, I was drawn to the profession because of my own experiences in healthcare. Advocates are nurses, patients, social workers, family members, and others who saw the failures of the system and want to help others in securing safe and affordable care. They are people who have advocated for their own friends and families and have seen the difference a dedicated, knowledgeable advocate can make. They are professionals who not only advocate for their clients but also have a passion for helping all people access quality healthcare through education, community involvement, and legislative activism.
I am proud and excited to embark on my patient advocacy journey. I join a rank of many dedicated and caring individuals who seek to improve the health of all through advocacy.
Stay tuned. You’ll be hearing and seeing much more about patient advocacy. Who knows? You may even say you heard it here first.