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.
How professional patient advocates can help
Professional patient advocates can assist patients in other ways as well, including:
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.