- A growing field known as professional patient advocacy is helping people aging alone navigate the medical system.
- Fees for patient advocacy services can range between $125 to $400 an hour and may include client or doctor consultations, monitoring medical records, or reviewing medical bills and insurance claims.
- A patient advocate can work as part of your overall team of estate planning and health professionals and should be a different person than the one you designate to be your health care proxy.
Jeralyn Felts, 72, has faced a succession of medical scares in recent years. She wrestles with chronic diseases and has repeatedly endured adverse physical reactions and side effects to medications.
But it goes deeper. Her frustration with doctors has made her feel powerless and her voice unheard when it comes to her health care.
Her solution: She hired Dr. Annette Ticoras, a patient advocate and licensed physician, based in Columbus, Ohio, to go with her to appointments and be a “second set of ears,” said Felts.
Ticoras represents a growing profession of patient advocates (or patient navigators) who help Americans who are aging alone navigate a complex and often stressful medical system.
What Does a Patient Advocate Do?
A health care or patient advocate is in charge of helping patients steer through the multifaceted medical system and may offer a broad set of home-based recovery and wellness support services.
They might offer guidance in making medical decisions, help locate a specialist or hospital, go with patients to doctor appointments to take notes and ask questions, manage multiple-doctor care, discuss treatment options, and keep track of prescriptions. They may even help get to the bottom of billing mistakes and challenge insurance-coverage denials.
Just as the work of an advocate varies, so does the way they enter the field. Many, however, are medical-trained professionals. Some are nurses and social workers. Others are doctors such as Ticoras, who specializes in general internal medicine.
Two resources for finding patient advocates are the National Association of Healthcare Advocacy, which requires members to sign a code of ethics, and the Alliance of Professional Health Advocates, which requires participants to have professional liability insurance.