Health Newcomer: The Patient Advocate
The average healthcare provider visit lasts less than 15 minutes. So if you have lots
of questions about your illness or medical bills or insurance claims, what do you
do? Until now, your choice has been to ask a nurse, social worker, or the staff at
your health insurance company.
But over the past decade a go-to person called a patient advocate has appeared on
the healthcare list. This person can provide answers, education, support, and care
Some advocates have medical training, others don’t. Some have worked in hospitals
or healthcare providers’ offices. Some are consumers who have spent time advocating
for themselves or family members and are willing to share what they’ve learned.
Advocates’ services aren’t certified. They often are not covered by insurance. Consumers
should have a clear understanding of charges for services and payment choices before
hiring an advocate.
But if you can afford it, the services of the right advocate could end up saving you
money if medical claims are handled correctly.
Contact your hospital's patient advocate
Many hospitals have patient advocates on staff. They can help you:
Call your hospital and ask if they have a patient advocate on staff.
Services for hire
Patient advocates vary in the services they provide. Here are some examples:
Healthcare management. Major health conditions can result in piles of bills and insurance forms. Some patient
advocates organize medical records and help resolve insurance coverage disputes.
Condition and treatment education. People diagnosed with cancer, heart disease, or other complex conditions can hire
an advocate to answer questions. An advocate can also look into related clinical trials
On-site support. People with complex treatment plans may need help keeping track of everything. A patient
advocate can make sure the right questions are asked and important procedures are
Facility searches. Hiring a patient advocate to research suitable nursing or stroke rehabilitation choices
can help save money. This is especially helpful if the person who needs care is in