In India, the word advocate is synonymous with a lawyer, which means it usually carries a negative connotation. However, in order to become a health advocate, you do not need to a get a LLB degree. Remember that the word advocacy means someone who champions a cause; and an advocate is someone who fights for your cause.
It’s helpful to have someone at your bedside in the hospital to make sure overworked nurses notice if your vital signs are going downhill or to ensure that the right medications are given at the right time. It’s good to have someone who can get on the Web and research your disease. And it’s important to have someone to take notes during doctor visits and ask the questions you forget.
The field of Patient Advocacy is booming due to four trends in the healthcare industry:
- Consumers want assistance in navigating the healthcare system so they can be active participants in their own health.
- The healthcare industry is complex, fragmented and not patient- or family-centered. That makes it difficult for consumers to ensure they’re getting the care they want. Having an advocate empowers patients to understand and demand the plan of care that they need.
- Due to escalating healthcare costs, consumers have become more savvy shoppers, who want to ensure that they will get the healthcare they need in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible.
- Trust in healthcare has eroded to the point that consumers are looking for trusted professionals for assistance in navigating the complicated healthcare landscape.
Keep in mind that being a patient advocate is not an adversarial position. As mentioned elsewhere in this book, it doesn’t necessarily mean rushing out and getting a second opinion on every matter, or conducting your own research and confronting a healthcare professional with your findings. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek second opinions, or do your own research. On the contrary, this is often a wise approach. If you do decide to do your own research or obtain a second opinion, please speak with your doctor about it. Effective patient advocates do not breed discontent – they build and strengthen relationships.
What are some of the common mistakes a patient advocate may make?
- Fail to get consent to act as a patient advocate.
- Fail to recognise the patient’s preferences or personal communication style.
- Fail to recognise that behind every medical goal is a personal goal.
- Plant seeds of mistrust between the patient and the doctor. This book will help you avoid some of those mistakes.