Health Newcomer: The Patient Advocate

The average healthcare provider visit lasts less than 15 minutes. So if you have lots of questions about your illness or medical bills or insurance claims, what do you do? Until now, your choice has been to ask a nurse, social worker, or the staff at your health insurance company.

But over the past decade a go-to person called a patient advocate has appeared on the healthcare list. This person can provide answers, education, support, and care to patients.

Differing credentials

Some advocates have medical training, others don’t. Some have worked in hospitals or healthcare providers’ offices. Some are consumers who have spent time advocating for themselves or family members and are willing to share what they’ve learned.

Advocates’ services aren’t certified. They often are not covered by insurance. Consumers should have a clear understanding of charges for services and payment choices before hiring an advocate.

But if you can afford it, the services of the right advocate could end up saving you money if medical claims are handled correctly.

Contact your hospital's patient advocate

Many hospitals have patient advocates on staff. They can help you:

  • Understand your bill

  • Apply for financial assistance

  • Access medical records

Call your hospital and ask if they have a patient advocate on staff.

Services for hire

Patient advocates vary in the services they provide. Here are some examples:

  • Healthcare management. Major health conditions can result in piles of bills and insurance forms. Some patient advocates organize medical records and help resolve insurance coverage disputes.

  • Condition and treatment education. People diagnosed with cancer, heart disease, or other complex conditions can hire an advocate to answer questions. An advocate can also look into related clinical trials and research.

  • On-site support. People with complex treatment plans may need help keeping track of everything. A patient advocate can make sure the right questions are asked and important procedures are followed.

  • Facility searches. Hiring a patient advocate to research suitable nursing or stroke rehabilitation choices can help save money. This is especially helpful if the person who needs care is in another state.

Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Stacey Wojcik MBA BSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2024
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