A medical patient advocate is usually a nurse who has the desire to help patients make their way through the myriad of "medical-ese" that comes with the medical system.
The Advocate works directly with the patient and/or their family in the following ways:
1). The Advocate can explain the patient's medical problem in a way that is easy to understand. Doctors use medical language to describe a condition (for example, cardiomyopathy) that makes no sense to the patient or his/her family. When the patient asks what the condition is and what can be done for it, the doctor will spout off numerous large words the patient does not understand. This causes confusion and fear in the patient and their family. Here, the Advocate will be in the room when the doctor states what the diagnosis is and is able to explain it to the patient and family in a way they can understand and eliminating the fear.
2). The Advocate can help the patient and his/her family make the best choices of treatment available. Many times doctors will only talk about one type of treatment, when there many be others the patient would feel better using. There may be some alternative treatments that are as good, if not better than, the one the doctor offers. The Advocate, after some research, can explain to the patient and family what is available and how this treatment will benefit the patient, so that during their next visit to the doctor, the patient can talk to the doctor with the knowledge of a different treatment plan and get the doctor's opinion on how it would help him/her making the patient an active participant in his/her own medical care.
3). The Advocate can run interference between the patient and the insurance company. Many times, the insurance company wants to use the cheapest treatment available without regard to whether it will benefit the patient or if it is the best one to use. The Advocate can step in and talk to the insurance company, on behalf of the patient, to try to change the insurance company's outlook on the suggested treatment.
4). The Advocate will know, or can find out quickly, the services that are available in the patient''s community that he/she may want to use when they are released from the hospital.
5). The Advocate can reduce the stress of the patient and family, during an illness or at the end-of-life times, by being there and taking care of issues that the family would normally handle and leaving them time to be with the patient.
6). The Advocate can also be a "go-between" when there is a problem with a medical staff member and do an appropriate follow-up.
7). The ultimate goal of the Advocate is to increase the cooperation between the patient and his/her family and the medical community so the patient is cared for appropriately.
A medical patient advocate is another vital member of the patient's care team.