Finding great patient advocates is much harder than you might think. Not only should a professional have a good understanding of health policies and legal framework, but they also have to be acquainted with the local providers. Otherwise, there’s a good chance they’ll send you in the wrong direction.
That being said, you should probably try to avoid volunteers and opt for private advocates. While private patient advocates are much more expensive in comparison, you can rest assured they’ll give you the best advice possible. However, the high price is usually worth it as these professionals can find you the cheapest medical options in your city.
As patient advocate screening is rather complex, we’ve decided to create an article that will guide you through the process.
Finding an advocate
Although this profession is on the rise, it can still be tricky to find advocates. The statement is especially true if you live in a smaller rural area or in a state with a low population.
The National Association of Health Advocacy Consultants (NAHAC) website is perhaps the best place to seek outpatient advocates. The platform works as a massive register of US advocates, allowing you to quickly find experts in your area. Besides that, they also have an amazing blog where you can learn more about this service and your rights.
Alternatively, you can browse available professionals in your area by simply doing a Google search. All you need to do is type in “Patient advocate” and combine it with the name of your city. If that doesn’t work, we also suggest using LinkedIn in the same manner (many advocates are active on this network).
Preparing for interview
If you wish to get the most out of patient advocacy, it’s vital that you properly prepare for the interview. You need to create a list of all the questions as well as inquire about the procedure. Always remember that top-tier professionals have a good understanding of different medical practices, so they can walk you through the entire process.
Here are a few things you need to check during the interview:
Like with any other professional, your first task is to check the advocate’s credentials. Make sure to ask about their specialization, as some advocates might focus on a specific branch of medicine while having limited knowledge of other areas. Furthermore, certain professionals are much better at dealing with insurance companies, while others have a better understanding of local providers’ prices.
Being a great patient advocate requires an intricate, combined knowledge of finances and medicine, which is something that a small number of people possess. So, make sure to choose an expert according to your specific needs.
As mentioned, every patient case is different. In most cases, the quality of an advocate’s service depends on what they’ve seen and done in the past. Inquire about their experience and whether they’ve handled patients with your medical condition. Based on their answer, you’ll know if this is a person you can trust.
Most importantly, you should ask how the treatment went for their past patients. If you wish to acquire a few extra insights, it wouldn’t be bad to check the advocate’s online references and reviews.
There are lots of things advocates consider when giving you a quote. Perhaps the biggest factor is the type of service a patient requires. As mentioned, complex cases that require multidisciplinary support will usually cost a lot. The advocate will also consider the project duration as well as how far they need to travel to reach your home.
Besides these bigger factors, there are also a few minor ones, like a review of medical bills, time spent on research, your personal health assessment, handling insurance business, and even scheduling appointments. Luckily, you can skip many of these optional services, thus saving a lot of money.
Given that many advocates charge by the hour, it’s crucial that you ask about the service length. That way, you might even be able to negotiate the prices beforehand (especially if the process takes a while). Of course, you’ll also have to ask if the expert has enough free time in the schedule to take your case.
You should always look for specialists close to your location, as this will make things easier for both sides while saving you money. Having a person nearby is also vital if you’re suffering from a debilitating condition and are expecting emergencies. However, that doesn’t mean you should hire unsuitable patient advocates just because they’re close to your home.
6. Written reports
Written reports may or may not be necessary, depending on the case. For example, if you hired a specialist for your ailing parents and you can’t be with them every day, you might require reports to monitor their condition. On the other hand, if you’re seeing the expert each and every day, these reports are unnecessary.
Another thing you need to consider is that patient advocates commonly issue reports for a fee. So, if you’re on a tight budget, it might be worthwhile to avoid them altogether.
Signing a contract
Once you’re certain that this advocate is just the person for you, it’s time to sign a contract. The document should be as extensive as possible, covering all the points we’ve previously mentioned. Aside from listing their services and prices, the specialists should also disclose their references, experience, location, and what’s expected from them.
Keep in mind that patient advocates are regulated by the Patient Advocate Certification Board (PACB). The regulatory organization prescribes all ethical codes that experts should abide by. That being said, this profession is highly standardized, so there’s nothing to worry about.
We also suggest that you take your time vetting patient advocates. Finding the right expert can change the course of treatment while also saving you a lot of money in the process. So, it isn’t necessarily bad if the process takes a few more weeks than expected.
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