What is health advocacy?
The definition of health advocacy varies widely—but for us at Solace, the responsibility of all health advocates is to help patients in any and all aspects of their healthcare journey. Typical health advocate roles can include the following:
- Helping patients communicate with clinicians and healthcare professionals
- Aiding patients in understanding their health situation and evaluating different paths forward
- Providing patients with decision support and guidance based on their conditions and treatment options
- Supporting patients with health insurance processes, including filing claims, preparing necessary forms and communicating directly with insurance companies
Who can benefit from health advocacy?
Health advocates empower patients by helping them get the most effective healthcare out of the healthcare system.
Some types of patients who can benefit from health advocacy include the following:
Health advocates can accompany aging patients to appointments and help speak with doctors, take notes, and manage symptom conversations and questions. They can also assist with preventive medical care, managing daily medications, and promoting activities that can improve a patient’s quality of life at home. A patient advocate can help aging adults navigate the digital technology burden by logging in to patient portals to review diagnostic test results, scheduling appointments online, and renewing prescriptions.
Early stages of dementia can be particularly challenging. Advocates can manage schedules, facilitate doctor’s visits, ensure quality of life at home or navigate facility placement, and also maintain strong communication between family members and “quarterback” all health processes.
Advocates can help manage symptoms and care protocols, as well as act as a support system. Chronic illnesses can be lonely and debilitating; an advocate can help carry the burden of care management for any patient.
Beware: hospitals typically have people they call “patient advocates” on staff, but these are not independent advocates like those you’ll find on Solace. A hospital advocate is essentially customer service hired by the hospital to recommend care that’s in the hospital’s best interest, rather than acting in the patient’s best interest. When hospitalized, it’s critical that a patient has someone who is on their side 100%—someone who can communicate with the doctors before decisions are made and stay to make sure that the patient is properly cared for.
Patients With a Serious Diagnosis
If you’ve been diagnosed with a challenging illness such as cancer, an advocate can be invaluable—helping you find the right doctor, gathering information from different sources and aiding you in determining the right course of treatment or clinical studies that are available.
Anyone Looking for a Doctor
It can often be challenging to find a doctor that suits your needs, particularly when you have a challenging case. Even finding a primary care doctor can be hard, whether it’s in urban areas where specialty doctors outnumber primary care physicians, or in rural geos where there are few doctors around. Advocates can help you find the right doctor for your needs.
Whether it’s getting an incomprehensible bill, trying to understand your different insurance options, or simply being confused about the different options available to you, the U.S. healthcare system is purposefully designed to be difficult. Advocates on Solace specializes in particular areas and can help you solve your problems.
Anyone Looking for a Specialist
Sometimes you or a loved one needs help but aren’t sure what the right type of person would be. Whether that’s a caregiver, a physical therapist, home care aide, or someone who can simply help with your specific problem, an advocate can help you find the right person for your needs.
Who can be a Patient Advocate?
Patient advocates are experts in health. Many of them have backgrounds in the medical industry as MDs, Physician Assistants, Nurse Practitioners, and Registered Nurses. Some advocates are empathetic individuals who have been trained and certified by independent organization such as the PAC Board. Others are experience-driven experts who have lived through specific diagnoses and are now deeply knowledgeable about treatment options and able to help other people navigate complex diagnoses more easily.
How does health advocacy improve patient outcomes?
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reports that only 12% of U.S. adults have the health literacy skills needed to manage the demands of the complex health care system—and even these individuals’ ability to absorb and use health information can be compromised by stress or illness.
According to a recent study by Johns Hopkins, medical error is the third leading cause of death in the United States.
In a system where doctors are increasingly asked to see more patients with less time and less continuity of care, having an advocate at your side to help navigate a health event is critical. A recent detailed meta-study showed that reduced continuity of care was associated with increased death rates; an advocate can ensure continuous quality of care, no matter how many different doctors you need to see.
Why work with an advocate?
Because our healthcare system is so complex, patients have neither the tools nor the ability to control their healthcare and communicate effectively with their doctors—and the consequences can be deadly. Advocates solve this by using their expertise to seek to achieve the very best outcome. If you’re looking for an advocate to help you or a loved one going through a challenging time, book an advocate on Solace today.
Sara has led creative, brand, marketing and product teams for some of the fastest-growing startups in the U.S. She has written for multiple billionaires, international NBA stars and Nobel Prize winners and is brought to you mostly by multiple shots of espresso, administered daily.