Patient advocacy is a broad field that encompasses a variety of job positions, but the general duty of a patient advocate is to take an intermediary role and help ensure the quality of care provided by doctors, hospitals and insurance companies. There is not a specific educational track required to be a patient advocate, however experience or education in social work or health care is often helpful. Careers for those interested in patient advocacy can be found in the non-profit sector, in hospitals or in patient advocacy firms.
Public Patient Advocate
A public patient advocate works for a non-profit patient or health advocacy organisation. Non-profit organisations often focus more on social services than providing medical care, and are open to the public. A public patient advocate provides a broad range of services such as medical debt crisis assistance and help with access to insurance. Public patient advocates often also work to help lobby for state or federal reform to improve health care laws on behalf of patients--for example, employer medical leave policy laws. Public patient advocates should be knowledgeable in a variety of areas of health care, including business, medical practice and insurance.
Hospital Patient Advocate
Federal law requires that hospitals have patient advocates. A hospital patient advocate works in the hospital and is there to advise and assist patients with concerns about insurance or the type of care they are receiving. The job of a hospital patient advocate is to talk with the patient, to educate her about treatments and hospital policy, to direct her to any appropriate services and to assist her with insurance disputes. Patient advocates also often build relationships with the families of patients, providing them with the same assistance.
Private Patient Advocate
A private patient advocate works for a patient advocacy firm. Patient advocacy firms are businesses that have a roster of patient advocates that can be hired by patients. This is very similar to the way a law firm works. Patient advocates who work for a firm are hired to consult patients and their families, help them find the best medical care, make appointments, travel with patients to appointments, deal with paperwork and bills and be a contact person for the patient's insurance company. If qualified, a private patient advocate may also provide medical care.
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