Services Offered by Private Health and Patient Advocates

These Independent Professionals Work Directly for You, the Client

patient advocate showing computer to older couple
A patient advocate can provide many services from helping you research a diagnosis or treatment, to reviewing and negotiating your medical bills. Getty Images - Elyse Lewin

"Patient Advocate" is a very broad title that encompasses many types of patient advocacy services. While there are a number of big picture types of advocacy, the list below will help you understand better the patient advocacy services a patient may need:

Medical Assistance

This type of advocacy requires knowledge of the healthcare system, and a medical background. Advocates who provide medical assistance can help review diagnoses, treatment options, medical records and test reports, they may accompany a patient to appointments, monitor the patient at the bedside in a hospital or be a good choice for a healthcare proxy.

The advocates, navigators and care managers providing this type of care have, in most cases, a medical background; retired doctors or nurses, or someone who spent the first part of his career in a medical capacity. There are some formal programs being developed for assisting patients with medical needs.

Decision Making Assistance

There are two main types of decision assistance advocates may provide. Shared Decision Making is a process that helps patients make choices based on their values and belief systems. Mediation or Conflict Resolution helps families make difficult decisions related to their loved ones' care.

Insurance Assistance

Health insurance and other cost and billing issues can be very confusing. Individuals and businesses are available to help patients or their loved ones wade through the confusion. They offer services such as helping to choose the best insurance plan, handling paperwork and insurance filings, negotiating denials of claims, and Medicare plan decision making.

Home Health Assistance

Unknown just a generation ago, home health assistance is relatively new, but a much in demand service. Home health assistants may or may not have any nursing-type training.

They can perform services such as in-home nursing care, home therapy and rehabilitation, and daily living assistance.

Elder and Geriatric Care

Similar to home health assistance, although focused on the elderly, this type of assistance may also be found in assisted-living and nursing home settings, and may provide help with Medicare services or hospice services.

Legal Assistance

Sometimes the help needed for medical problems is really more legal in nature. From worker's compensation to disability filings, to malpractice and medical error review, you may find that your best advocate is a lawyer.

Health Coaches

Health Coaching focuses more on wellness and lifestyle management than on the services needed for someone who is sick or injured. Learn more about a career in health coaching and becoming a health coach.

If you are a patient:

As you reach out to potential advocates to assist you, you'll want to be clear about which services they offer to make sure they are a match for your needs.

If you are considering patient advocacy as a career:

There are attributes and experience you'll need to have in order to be successful and any of these forms of advocacy.

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