Tenacity Needed In the Role of Patient Advocate

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The maze of healthcare is not for the light-hearted. If you are so lucky to be chosen as an advocate for another’s healthcare, buckle up and prepare for the ride. First things first, get a release from the person you are representing/helping, so that you can have agreed upon/legal access to the person’s healthcare information.  Once that is in place, obtain copy of patient’s insurance information (if applies), including, copy of patient’s policy so that you can become familiar (call insurance representatives/insurance company if any questions re: coverage) with what is and what isn’t covered. If no insurance, call state resources for healthcare; numbers usually posted in local phone books.

You will need to sit down and spend some time conversing with the person you are representing, so that you clearly understand their wishes as well as who is to be in the know or not (including family members.) You will also need to obtain a list of their providers and for what reason(s) they are following with each one.  In addition to obtaining knowledge regarding their wishes, you will also need to spend time learning about their medical conditions.The more you know about the individual you are representing, the easier your job will be in the long run.

I highly recommend obtaining a notebook with dividers and organizing all information into a user-friendly format; basic information in front, medications in another, office/doctor visits, hospital visits, procedures and results etc. Life is so much easier when all this information is at your fingertips vs having to run out and continuously research etc. I can’t reinforce enough, the use of the toll-free numbers provided by insurance companies, as a resource for information to help you obtain some semblance of order in dealing with the paperwork. The most IMPORTANT tidbit I can pass on when speaking to anyone as an advocate for someone,  is to DOCUMENT date, time, title and name of person you spoke to, in addition to a brief synopsis of what was discussed. You never know when this information will help clarify or clear up a problem down the road.

We all know that communication on a topic that you aren’t completely familiar with, can be rather stress-provoking. If and when in a conversation with any resource person, whether medically or insurance related, you feel you’re not getting your questions answered, you have the right to ask to speak to another person. I personally recommend asking for a supervisor. Do be professional at all times as you are representing another person’s welfare and realize that the person on the other end of the phone is under a deal of stress as well, with the common goal of helping the person of record.

I refer to the debacle of healthcare as a maze, as the depth of regulatory bodies now involved has become mind-boggling., especially to the common man. The best advice I can give is to be persistent and not give up. There are great resources and help out there and you must be tenacious and stick with whatever task it is you’re trying to getting answers for. You are representing someone who chose you because of a personal bond of trust and this is something you should hold dearly and with respect. This is an important job and one to not be taken lightly. Remember, the time will come when you will be asking someone to help you.

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