Everyone Needs A Healthcare Advocate

Getting the Best Care - June 22, 2012

Navigating the complexities of the healthcare system is challenging for anyone. When you're facing a major illness or recovering from an injury or surgery, navigating the healthcare system is nearly impossible. The patient needs to focus attention and energy on the challenge of getting well. That's why I believe all patients need a healthcare advocate, someone whose sole purpose is to support the patient.

There are many types of healthcare advocates. Often spouses, adult children and other family members fill this role for patients. Other times a patient hires a professional advocate. If you're dealing with illness or injury, you may be asking yourself: what kind of professional advocate is best for me?

Most Certified Medical Advocates are physicians, registered nurses or social workers who specialize in the field of patient advocacy. Often they spent years working as clinicians before building a second career in patient advocacy on their medical knowledge and experience. Generally they take professional certification courses in medical advocacy. They can provide an extremely high level of oversight and coordination of the patient's care plan. Since they have clinical experience, they can provide services like reviewing the patient's medical records for accuracy, advising the patient on a treatment plan, and creating systems for medication and treatment management. Certified Medical Advocates are often hired to assist when a patient has dementia or some other condition that makes self-advocacy impossible.

While many patients need a Certified Medical Advocate, many others do not need such a high level of oversight for their medical care. However, they do still need some help and support. For example, a patient undergoing cancer treatment may have a spouse who works full time and no adult friends or relatives who can attend appointments with them and help them keep track of all the details. This patient may be able to make decisions and advocate for themselves if only someone else were there to take notes, remind them of symptoms to report to the physician, and track their medications. Sometimes these small details can make an enormous difference, empowering the patient to manage their own care.

I am not clinically trained and cannot provide the level of oversight that a Certified Medical Advocate can. If you need that level of care, I can only suggest that you find a CMA or another advocate with the skills and training that your situation requires. But if all you need is someone to help you with the details so that you can manage your own care, Hope Assistance may be the service you need.

If there is one thing I've learned as I work in this industry, patient care is rarely a "one size fits all" situation. Some patients need extremely high levels of coordination; some need just a little help now and then to keep them on track.