Ahead of the Curve: Patient Advocate

The confluence of aging baby boomers with a complex healthcare system demands patient advocacy

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Patient Advocate. Even Christopher Columbus would have had a tough time navigating the waters of the complicated U.S. healthcare system, and most people, especially when ill, aren't the best navigators. Enter patient advocates. They help ensure that the patient gets to see the desired specialist. They do Internet research so the patient is more informed when talking to the doctor. They educate family members on how to support the patient during a hospital stay, for example, ensuring that the pills really are meant for her. And they sort through the mountains of bills and, if necessary, negotiate fees with the healthcare provider, insurance company, or other payer. ("Medicare, how dare you refuse to pay for that surgery!")

The confluence of aging baby boomers with an ever more complex, cost-conscious healthcare system means unlimited demand for a persuasive, persistent person willing to do the vital work of patient advocacy. Some hospitals and HMOs hire nurses and social workers as patient advocates, but there remains a huge unmet need, which may be filled by self-employed advocates.

More info: Patient Advocacy Foundation and Hospital Stay Handbook: A Guide to Becoming a Patient Advocate for Your Loved Ones by Jari Holland Buck.