Looking at the duties of a patient advocate is one of the first things you should do before deciding to become one. Advocates can work for hospitals and other agencies or facilities, but they may also work for private or independent firms that contract out to those facilities. It’s also important to look at what they do before meeting with one yourself after checking into a hospital or another type of medical facility.
Provide Patients with Facility Information
Providing patients with information is one of the primary duties of a patient advocate. If you ever visited the emergency room before and had someone come in and talk with you, you likely met with an advocate before. The advocate will provide you with brochures and other documents that show you what the facility can do and what you can expect during your stay. You also have the chance to ask any questions that are on your mind and find out more about doctors working for the facility.
Explain Treatment Options
Patient advocates are responsible for explaining any and all treatment options to you. If your doctor tells you that you are a diabetic, the advocate will talk with you about how you care for yourself at home with prescription medications and lifestyle changes. For more serious medical conditions like cancer, the advocate will show you the treatments available like chemotherapy and surgery. You may also get help with referrals to specialists.
You may not realize that one of the duties of a patient advocate is to investigate claims and complaints made by patients against those working in the hospital. These complaints can include minor claims about a doctor with a rough bedside manner and more serious complaints involve racism or physical abuse. Patient advocates meet with everyone involved in the incident, speaks with witnesses and writes a detailed report about that incident. The advocate is also responsible for any followup needed after the incident, including deciding whether the worker acted in an inappropriate manner and the punishment given to that employee.
Discuss Payment Arrangements
Not all patients can afford the cost of their medical care, which is why discussing payment arrangements is one of the key duties of a patient advocate. If you have health insurance, the advocate will talk to you about what your insurance does and does not cover. Those without health insurance will learn about programs designed to cover a portion of their treatment and get help setting up a payment plan. A payment plan lets you get the care you need today or in the near future in exchange for payments that you make in the coming months.
Act as a Counselor
According to the Assertive Patient, acting as a counselor is another of the key duties of a patient advocate. This applies to those working in hospitals and any other health care organization. As a counselor, your advocate will help you navigate through the world of medical billing, treatment plans and even home care. You may need help making arrangements for a nurse to come in and provide care once you leave the hospital or for equipment that you can use at home until you recover. Advocates will help you make those arrangements and determine how to pay for everything you need too.
Major medical facilities across the United States hire patient advocates to act as a mediator between the hospital itself and the patient. Some of the duties of a patient advocate include acting as a counselor, discussing payment arrangements, providing you with the information you need and talking about your treatment options.
Related reading: How do You Become a Hospital Chaplain?