A patient-advocate won’t let a patient feel like a medical statistic. He can make him feel like a special customer
When Nisha Malhotra got diagnosed with brain cancer, she knew she needed to make a few urgent decisions and that she needed the help of a compassionate, knowledgeable patient-advocate.
Components of a Master Care Plan
- Assist with the care coordination process
- Schedule medical visits (physician appointments, lab visits, etc.).
- Prepare for medical appointments, including developing lists of questions to ask the doctor.
- Provide documentation of pertinent medical information.
- Arrange for patient transportation to and from medical appointments.
- Coordinate care assistance with other health professionals, such as social workers, physical/occupational therapists, home-health care givers, and nursing home staff members.
Although many patients are net savvy and can access most health-related information online, it still takes a lot of time to research your condition, find the best experts, and negotiate with insurance companies. In cases of rare or chronic illnesses, accessing these services poses an even greater challenge.
A mother of two who works as a school teacher, Sangeeta Chuhan was finding it difficult scheduling a meeting with a paediatrician for her eight-year-old daughter. She was surprised how fast the appointment got made through a patient-advocate, in this case a friend of the paediatrician’s secretary. In India, since the practice is still evolving, you may not easily find such advocacy firms, but there are always people around you, who perform this role informally. These people can:
- Assist you in locating doctors, specialists, and treatment facilities locally and nationally.
- Help you organise your medical records, including current prescriptions, drug allergies, past surgical history, and other data.
- Draw up an individualised medical plan, based on the doctor’s medical advice, set medical goals and explain and help you adhere to the various treatment protocols.
- Avoid irrational drug combinations through diligent case management.
- Let’s face it – it’s not possible to receive good medical care unless you learn to effectively manage that care. Patient- advocates can help you do that. In addition, they can:
- Schedule medical visits (physician appointments, lab visits, etc.), when they are due and send reminders to you.
- Accompany you, if no one else from your family is available.
- Take notes during the consultation and make a record of it, afterwards.
- Arrange for your transportation.
- Co-ordinate visits with allied health professionals, such as social workers, physical/ occupational therapists, nursing home staff members etc.
- Make alternate living arrangements (e.g. assisted living facilities) for you, so that your dignity, independence, safety, and social life are not compromised by your illness.
When in Need, Call Out to Your Advocate
Given the vast number of hospitals and medical specialists who claim to deliver cutting edge care, it’s becoming impossible to manage and understand all the information flying around. Patient advocates sift and sort through this information, de-codify it and present it back to you in lay-friendly language. In this process they:
- Relay physicians’ diagnosis and lab results in a simplified language, devoid of all medical jargon.
- Sort your medical records and help in storing these in an orderly fashion.
- Co-ordinate crisis management and are available on a 24/7 platform.
- Keep family members informed of the patient’s progress.