Individuals experiencing illnesses can benefit from having someone attend appointments with them and support their best interests. Often, close friends or family take on this role. Professional patient advocates, however, can step in when friends or family cannot be at the hospital or a patient prefers having the help of a qualified professional who understands the healthcare system.
Experienced patient advocates may have legal and medical knowledge that friends and family lack. Many professional patient advocates have experience as doctors or nurses, or as social workers or lawyers.
Hospital patient advocates
Some hospitals provide a professional patient advocate for you. Many insurance programs cover hospital-based patient advocates, making their services a cost-effective option for some patients. Additionally, some patients may appreciate that their hospital has already vetted their patient advocates. You may still prefer, however, to hire an independent patient advocate who may provide objective advocacy.
The cost of professional patient advocates
Hiring a patient advocate can be expensive — charging between $75 and $500 per hour.
However, patient advocates who understand healthcare rules and regulations can use their knowledge to help their clients avoid unnecessary expenses. For instance, patient advocates can help make cost-effective travel arrangements, review hospital bills, and assist with insurance claims.
How professional patient advocates can help
Professional patient advocates can assist patients in other ways as well, including:
- Scheduling appointments
- Attending appointments with patients, taking notes, and asking questions
- Communicating medical information to family members
- Ensuring nurses wash their hands and follow other safety procedures when a patient is staying in the hospital
- Resolving disputes with doctors
- Finding specialists in the patient's insurance network
- Reviewing statements and identifying billing errors
- Appealing insurance denials
Although professional patient advocates can help patients understand their illnesses and treatment options, they do not make healthcare decisions for the patient. Only the patient, a healthcare agent under a healthcare power attorney, or a legal guardian can decide whether to prolong a patient's life and what kind of end-of-life medical interventions to carry out. Professional patient advocates also need the patient's consent to get private health information from the patient's healthcare provider.
How to find a professional patient advocate
Keep in mind that there is no state or national professional patient advocate licensing program, and professional patient advocates undergo no certification tests. If you wish to hire a professional patient advocate, consider asking for references and reviewing a professional patient advocate's background before employing them.
For a directory of professional patient advocates, check out the following resources: