It can be a nightmare.
You or your loved one is sick and in the hospital. You know the bills are mounting. The system is reminiscent of a giant labyrinth that is impossible to escape. You feel confused, overwhelmed and not sure if you are doing everything necessary to take care of your rights and not overpay.
Getting through the craziness associated with major illness or injury is not fun. It can make a person literally ill with all of the paperwork, phone calls and needing to know the health insurance system. Who really has time for that? That is why it is imperative for anyone facing the health system to get someone on their side: the Patient Advocate.
A person hired to look out for your welfare when it comes to the complicated process of the medical world, a patient advocate can be either volunteer or paid. When it comes to finding an advocate that is going to make a significant positive difference in your life it is important to look for certain characteristics. Here are three aspects that you should look for when choosing the advocate that will assist you with your health care needs.
- Who do they work for? When it comes to patient advocacy, there are three types: paid and working for a hospital, volunteer working for a nonprofit or individual working freelance. Each type of representative has benefits and negatives. Volunteers are low on cost, but can also be low on experience, whereas paid consultants can sometimes cost more than desired, but the outcome makes it worthwhile. One way to make sure that you are working with your best option is to go through a directory that helps in that department, like AdvoConnection or the National Association of Health Advocacy Consultants (or NAHAC), both are free.
- Interview them like it’s a job. Take the time to put together some questions to ask your potential advocate. Find out how much their services cost, if your issue is something they specialize in, and what the steps would be should you choose to work with them. Also, find out if they have worked cases like yours, what their credentials are, and if their background matches with your needs. Another important point: can they take on the work load necessary for your particular case. Each situation is different and the time to handle the case affectively varies as well. Last but not least, don’t forget to ask for references!
- Will there be written documentation? An important aspect to finding the right patient advocate is to determine what kind of paper trail you will be given to support you down the road. If you are hiring your advocate to assist with an elderly parent situation, say, in another town, it is vital that you have detailed written reports of interactions.
Having someone on your side can change a horrible health crisis into a challenge that can be dealt with. Take the time to find a patient advocate, and you might be heart and head happy that you did.