The health care system has become very complex and despite healthcare providers working as hard as they can in this mileu with time constraints, many patients are finding it very confusing.

Having a patient advocate on your side can make all the difference between understanding your healthcare options and having doors opened to specialists that might not have been accessible to without the advocate.

According to the director of Health Advocacy Program at Sarah Lawrence College in N.Y., Laura Weil, “now everyone seems to agree that you need help navigating a fragmented and technical health care system that is not always friendly”.

Even the government is recognizing the pivotal role that advocates play.  Health care legislation is being bandied about in Washington to improve the coordination of care for medical care improvement, decreasing unneeded tests, treatments and procedures.U.S. News & World Report recently listed patient advocates as one of the hottest growing careers. They are even being added to benefit packages by employers.

Hewitt Associates, a benefits consulting firm offers a clinical patient advocate program so that employees can call a hotline manned by doctors and nurses giving advice for medical care.  Michelle Olef, an advocate for Hewitt sates “every single participant who contacts us is angry and stressed out after having tried to deal with the health care system.  More and more we were hearing confusion about clinical issues, as well as standard claim issues.”

“A hospital advocate can facilitate the flow of information,” said Ms. Weil, who worked as an advocate in New York area hospitals for 20 years. “They can be the point person who can access anyone in the institution for you.”

Whether the patient advocate is hired by the patient, hospital or insurance company does make a difference however in terms of allegiance. If hired by the hospital, a patient is not going to get referrals by the advocate to services outside the hospital. “Know the agenda of the person who is helping you,” she said. A hospital’s own advocate, for instance, may not be allowed to suggest another institution or physician where you might find better expertise for your particular medical condition.

Depending on the location and type of service that you enlist, care and advice from an advocate may be done in person, by phone or even online. Just make sure that the advocate has the experience and knowledge required for your services.

You will be seeing more  of patient advocacy in the future.

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