Patient advocate – a individual/organization who helps guide a patient through the healthcare system
Two years out of residency and I started noticing a very troubling theme in the health care system I was apart of. Here I was, a doctor who with all the best intentions couldn't do right for my patients because of forces that were out of my control.
When I started working in my clinic I didn't have a lot of patients which meant that I got to spend a lot more time than your normal doctor's appointment. The norm in my office was 20 and 40 minute appointments, but when the practice started to pick up I realized that I wouldn't be able to keep up the pace with my old approach and suddenly I found myself in the 15 minute appointment cycle that I always heard about but figured I would be one of the few physicians to avoid it.
It had gotten so bad that I had we even rearranged the exam rooms so that I could easily leave the room without being stopped for additional questions by the patients. I had suddenly become the physician who was more concerned about getting to the next patient rather than making sure that all my patient's needs were taking care of during the appointment. It wasn't until one of my patient's called me out during one of my escapes out of the exam room yelling
“I know you're in a rush Dr. Pierre but I got questions and I'm not leaving till they are all answered.”
That was the kick in the pants I needed to re-evaluate just what my purpose was in this field of medicine and thats when the patient of becoming my patient's advocate truly started. At first I started getting more consistent with the blogging and I would used them as a additional support & education for my patients. So when I would have patients dealing with erectile dysfunction, high blood pressure, diabetes and more I always encouraged them to go to my website for more info. From there came the videos and not long after the podcasts which all have been for the purpose of helping patient's talk to their doctors. I didn't realize just how much it was needed until I saw the huge void that was there for physicians who wanted to be their patient's biggest advocate despite that our health care system willingness to not support it's biggest customer – the patient.
Even though my focus has been on helping patients talk to their physicians there are various reasons why you need a patient advocate in your corner. Your life likely depends on it..
7 reasons why you need a patient advocate
- Be the Voice – This is one of the most critical benefits for having a patient advocate because I have found that even if the patient can speak for themselves in their personal pursuit of health and well being they don't know how, so they just do what ever their doctor tells them.
- Finding the right physician- The Doctor/Patient relationship is one of the biggest roles in medicine and can be a life or death decision if not done correctly
- Choosing the right insurance company – Understanding which insurance is right for you is probably just as important as choosing the right doctor.
- Replace Dr. Google – The lack of authority have certainly attributed to physician burnout and an advocate can serve as a trusted source outside your physician,
- Transition of care – Getting a patient from your primary doctor's office to someone outside of the office can sometimes be a challenge but a health advocate can improve the overall state of the patient and make sure what happens in one place (office, hospital, rehab) can follow you along to another.
- Safety – Your health advocate along with your physician can sometimes step into protect you
- Asking the right questions – If you have ever had a family member go to a doctor's appointment & right afterwards not know exactly (what happened or why they are on a new medication ) this person can help answer those questions before you leave.
There are plenty more reasons why you need a patient advocate but I hope you get the point. Regardless of your current age look for someone who can serve this very important role for you.
Check out my latest podcast episode discussing patient advocacy.