The U.S health system is a complicated labyrinth that leaves many people confused. This is even more so when a person is sick. This situation is expected to get more complex as more changes are introduced into the system. It is for these reasons that the help of people who understand the system is important during an illness and sometimes even in good health. The private patient advocate and a patient navigator are two groups of such people.
Who is a private patient advocate and who is a patient navigator? The two play a role in assisting a person when a health service is needed but their roles are distinctly different
Private Patient Advocate
These professionals are there to see to it that a patient gets the best treatment possible. They help the patient with advice and makes sure that they are not mistreated in any way by institutions or by staff. Some of the services they offer are:
- Listen to a patient’s history of the illness and may suggest institutions where they can get help.
- Can inform the patient about available alternative therapies other than those offered or suggested by their doctor.
- Sees to it that their client’s hospital bills are accurately calculated.
- If necessary and appropriate, they can keep a patient company in the hospital
- Can help the patient to present a complaint to the hospital about staff or treatment issues.
- Can help their client navigate the also complicated health insurance world.
The only problem with this service is the cost. The poor may not afford it and would only channel their complaint to hospital patient advocates who may not always have their (patient’s) interests as a priority.
This term initially referred to any person who assisted a patient through the health system. Used as such, the term was so broad leading to loss of meaning and confusion to the patient. Currently the term is reserved mainly for use in two areas.
- Cancer therapy
- Government health insurance policy for individuals.
Cancer care centers use patient navigators to literally hold a patient’s hand during the course of treatment. This can achieve both physical and moral support to the patient.
On the other hand, the government has trained patient navigators who assist Americans to purchase health insurance that will meet their health needs. This is done as part of implementing the Affordable Care Act. In regards to cancer a patient navigator is important because:
- They make sure that a patient gets needed financial support.
- They help to arrange for social support.
- They see to it that the patient gets transport to and from hospital.
This arrangement is particularly helpful to the poor and the aged who would otherwise most likely be unaware of the policies that could benefit them. The results are, better patient compliance, better outcome, fair sharing of resources and a satisfied patient and their family. These professionals through their service make an otherwise difficult journey through cancer more bearable for the patient and their family.
The Differences Between Private Patient Advocate and a Patient Navigator
- The advocate is hired by the patient or their family while the navigator is an institution’s or health system employee.
- The advocate focusses on an individual patient while the navigator may be assigned to different patients at different times.
- The advocate sticks with the patient throughout the treatment and maybe after while the navigator may only be with the patient for the time they have a relationship with the hospital they work in.
- Although both play a vital role to the patient’s wellbeing, a patient may feel more trusting to their advocate.
With changes going on in the health system, the average American will find it more difficult negotiating the maze of health services with all of the paperwork involved. The role of the private patient advocate will continue to be realized and to be sought.