What Does a Patient Advocate Do?

By: | Posted in: Blog | Monday, Mar 2, 2015 - 7:32pm

That’s a good question — what does a patient advocate do?  And there are a handful of answers, depending on the kind of help you need.

Some advocates help you with insurance claims, or review your hospital bills.  Others might sit with you at home while you convalesce, or help you understand a difficult diagnosis and an extended list of treatment options.  In fact, there’s a long list of services patients or health advocates might provide.

Most of these are simple to understand, because this kind of help has actually been around for many years.  The type of patient advocacy that seems most confusing – but can have the biggest impact on your positive medical outcomes – are medical / navigational advocates.

These advocates will sit with you in the doctor’s office and ask questions, or will help you make a difficult medical decision, or will sit at your bedside to monitor your hospital care, to be sure you get the right drugs, or don’t acquire an infection.

Here’s a metaphor to help you better understand why this is important:  Fifty years ago, if you wanted to buy a house, you found someone willing to sell, and the two of you worked out all the details.  If you needed a mortgage, you got it.  If you needed a lawyer to draw up the deed, then you hired one.

But over the years, particularly as credit problems started to arise and the legal requirements got tougher, we began to see real estate brokers establish an expertise as the go-between – between the seller and the buyer.  These brokers have a much larger bank of knowledge than someone who only buys or sells a home two or three times in a lifetime. They understand the process, know home values, mortgage options, negotiation – they know far more about everything related to the transaction of buying or selling a home than most of us do.  Today, very few home transactions take place without a real estate broker to orchestrate them.

Unfortunately, the healthcare system (no matter what country you live in) has become so complex that patients really do need a go-between to help them navigate.  Doctors can’t do it alone anymore, nor can nurses.  Without that expert to step in and shepherd us, we patients may succumb not to our disease or condition, but to the problems in the system that is intended to help us.


Advocates may:
accompany you to medical appointments or stay by your bedside in the hospital
help you learn more about your medical condition and treatment options
help you make difficult medical decisions
help you maintain a healthy pregnancy and raise healthy babies by working with a
midwife, doula or lactation specialist
teach you pain management techniques
help you navigate the insurance maze
help you file health insurance claims, and manage or reduce your hospital and medical bills
help your family come to agreement on decisions that need to be made
for a loved one who needs health-related assistance
find legal assistance after a medical error
track paperwork and records
help you file for social security disability or other assistance