Medical care advocates help seniors navigate the health care system


Special to the Recorder

With the labyrinth of health care services, staff providers and insurance companies available in today’s health care system, it’s easy for seniors to get lost in the shuffle.

But fortunately, seniors don’t have to navigate the health care system alone. Working with a medical care advocate, families can make their way through the medical maze and ensure their loved ones are receiving the best possible care.

What is a medical care advocate?

The American Nurses Association includes advocacy in its definition of nursing, which it describes as “the protection, promotion and optimization of health and abilities; prevention of illness and injury, alleviation of suffering through the diagnosis and treatment of human response and advocacy in the care of individuals, families, communities and populations.

Typical activities for a medical care advocate include representing a patient, protecting and advocating for a patient’s rights, ensuring confidentiality or informed consent, and building awareness and support among patients, survivors and their caregivers.

An individual patient advocate may act as a liaison between clients and their health care providers. Advocates can accompany patients to appointments and surgeries and help coordinate care among multiple health care providers, reviewing, organizing and developing a paper trail of documents and records. In addition, an advocate should perform a detailed assessment of the situation, including researching diagnosis and treatment options and providing a clear, unbiased professional opinion.

By professional background, advocates typically have been case managers or social workers who have refocused on helping clients in their decision-making. Patient advocacy services can also include transitioning older patients into assisted living or nursing homes, or even such mundane but essential tasks as providing transportation, bill tracking and payment assistance. By reducing unnecessary anxiety and fear and increasing patient compliance, this can result in a higher rate of successful treatment.

This is particularly true during the transition period that occurs from the onset of a medical emergency to a patient’s hospitalization and discharge. Post-discharge rehabilitation stays and release to home care are also periods when the patient is most vulnerable, both because of their physical condition and at times a lack of communication among various health care providers. Having a medical care advocate handle such transitions can help increase and improve a patient’s level of care, quality of life and overall well-being.

Cindy Rene Bishop, RNBSN is a medical care advocate who assists patients and families in navigating the health care system.