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Becoming a Patient Advocate: What Does a Patient Advocate Do?

Navigating the medical system is complicated. When someone is sick or dealing with serious health conditions, the last thing they need is to handle all the tough logistics of their care. That’s where a patient advocate comes in.

Patient advocates are the unsung heroes of the medical world. They get to speak up for a patient to make sure they have the best experience possible during a difficult time.

They do a lot more than that too. Let’s break down exactly what a patient advocate does for patients and how you can become one.

What Does a Patient Advocate Do?

Here are the main patient advocate duties:

  • Communicating patient complaints
  • Finding the best insurance policies
  • Communicating with the family
  • Keeping track of paperwork
  • Checking medical bills for mistakes
  • Filing and disputing claims
  • Researching treatment options
  • Going over medications with the patient
  • Going to appointments with the patient
  • Assisting in finding a nursing home
  • And more

Essentially, patient advocates are the voice for the patient. They can give the patients the compassion and sensitivity that they may not feel from their doctors, and they can help the patient assert their needs to get the best care.

Patient advocates get to help individuals from start to finish on their journey in the medical system. They also get to work with people of all ages with a variety of conditions, so patient advocate jobs are never boring.

Next, let’s look at other reasons why someone would want to use a patient advocate.

Why Are Patient Advocates Needed?

Again, the health care system in the United States is extremely complicated. Many people find themselves in medical debt. In fact, medical debt is the top reason people in the US file for bankruptcy.

Doctors are extremely busy in this country and don’t always get to spend a lot of one on one time with their patients. Misdiagnosis can also happen, and medical errors are not uncommon.

This is why someone would want a patient advocate to help them navigate the health care system. A patient advocate is usually a health care professional that has more knowledge of diagnoses, can understand the pros and cons of treatment options, and can be a sounding board for the patient’s needs when the doctor does not have much time.

Billing and Insurance Assistance

A patient advocate can also assist with the billing side of things, which is a huge help. Did you know that medical bills are often wrong? The average person is not trained to look for discrepancies in medical bills, and when you are dealing with a serious illness, that’s the last thing you want to deal with.

A patient advocate can pour over all of the bills and paperwork and notice when something is wrong. They also keep track of all of the patient’s records so that everything stays organized.

Additionally, patient advocates can help patients find the best health insurance policies to make sure that their expenses get covered. If something goes wrong with their policy, they can file claims and dispute issues on the patient’s behalf.

Having a patient advocate is similar to having a lawyer in the courtroom. They are trained in all of the jargon and paperwork, so they can make sure that patients get the care they need and minimize billing and insurance complications.

Who Needs a Patient Advocate?

Patient advocates are amazing for anyone navigating the health care system, but they are especially helpful for the following types of patients:

  • A patient who has a hard time keeping track of medical bills
  • A patient who wants to get a second opinion
  • A patient with no family or friends nearby
  • A patient who needs help understanding their diagnosis
  • A patient who is confused about treatment options
  • A patient that wants to plan end of life care

Any patient with a particularly complicated diagnosis or insurance situation can benefit from having an advocate speak up for them. Patient advocates can also be a great help when patients don’t live near family, and they can communicate with the family about treatment plans.

How to Become a Patient Advocate

Sometimes a patient advocate is a family member who has spent a lot of time researching the patient’s diagnosis on their behalf. They can accompany their family member to all appointments and use their research to ask questions that the patient may not know to ask.

On the other hand, sometimes a patient advocate is a professional in the health care world that has more knowledge about the whole system than the average person.

They could be a social worker working for a patient advocate non-profit organization, or they could be a former nurse that wanted to shift their career to advocacy.

Patient advocates can also work directly for hospitals, rehab centers, and other facilities in a customer service position. Retired health care workers can also use their time to volunteer as patient advocates.

Another way to advocate for patients is to become a Medicare agent. You don’t have to have a social work degree or experience in the health care system. You will primarily help the patient with finding the best insurance policies to cover their needs, and you will communicate with providers on behalf of patients.

Health insurance is one of the most complicated parts of the health care system, and patients need skilled insurance agents by their side to help them navigate the whole process.

Become a Patient Navigator 

There are plenty of great healthcare jobs, but being a patient advocate may be one of the most rewarding roles in the medical system. You get to offer kindness and compassion to patients and help them get the care they need.

For more info on different types of health care jobs, check out the rest of the blog.

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