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

A patient advocate can provide many types of services. Besides the advocates that work for larger organizations, you may want to use private or personal services. See what patient advocacy services a patient may need and the kinds of professionals who provide them.

Medical Assistance

Medical/navigational/care coordination advocacy requires a medical background and knowledge of the healthcare system.

Advocates who provide medical assistance can help review your diagnoses, treatment options, medical records, and test reports. The advocate may accompany you to appointments, monitor your care at your 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. They may be 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 to train providers for this career.

Decision-Making Assistance

There are two main types of decision assistance that can be provided by advocates:

  • Shared Decision Making: This is a process that helps patients make choices based on their values and belief systems.
  • Mediation or Conflict Resolution: This 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 the service is much in demand. 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. Medical issues that can benefit from a lawyer as an advocate include worker's compensation, disability filings, malpractice, and medical error review.

    Health Coaches

    Health coaching focuses more on wellness and lifestyle management than on the services needed for someone who is sick or injured. In some cases, health coaches may also help patients with chronic medical problems such as blood sugar control in diabetes or recovery from a cardiac event.

    A Word From Verywell

    If you are a patient looking for 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, explore the attributes and experience you'll need to have in order to be successful and any of these forms of advocacy.

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