by Lisa Stockdale
The health care system continues to grow more complex and difficult to navigate. As complexity swells, consumers are increasingly reaching out to private, independent patient advocates to get the help they need. Patient advocates offer a wide array of services ranging from accompanying clients to their doctors’ appointments, being present during a hospital stay, providing information to help make decisions about treatment options, reviewing and negotiating medical bills – and everything in between.
Who Can Be a Patient Advocate?
A family member, a close friend or relative, or even a trusted co-worker can act as a patient advocate. If you find yourself in need of someone with a working knowledge of the healthcare system or perhaps more of a clinical background, it might make sense to look at professional advocacy services. Consider the following local (central Ohio) providers:
· IKOR is a Dublin-based company offering healthcare and financial advocacy plus life management services. IKOR is operated by Dublin resident Melanie Hankinson who has a degree in Physical Therapy, is a Certified Senior Advisor and an Aging Life Care Professional™ with support from Sandy Miller, BSN, RN, graduate of the Ohio State University College of Nursing with 40 plus years serving central Ohio patients.
· Guided Patient Services (GPS) is a Westerville-based company specializing in patient advocacy and navigation to clients of all ages facing new or challenging healthcare issues. GPS was founded and is operated by Annette Ticoras, MD, graduate of Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine. GPS is a member of The Alliance of Professional Health Advocates.
Who pays for the advocates’ services?
Professional patient advocates are usually paid directly by the client. A few employers have begun providing patient advocacy support to their employees, but private health insurance companies do not pay for these services.
Not everyone can afford to hire an advocate, but many can and do. Many of us would not attempt to purchase a home without the advice and guidance of a realtor. Fewer would consider walking into a courtroom without the expertise of a lawyer, and many Americans have come to rely on a financial planner to help them manage their wealth and safeguard their financial well-being. As the healthcare system continues to evolve, patient advocates will become more common. Research is already starting to demonstrate the valuable role a patient advocate can play in improving patient outcomes and experience.