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Can a True Patient Advocate Be Paid by Someone Else?
Several questions have come my way recently about what kinds of job opportunities might exist for patient advocates. I refer people to an article I’ve written elsewhere, but the real answer is – to be a true advocate, you must analyze who is paying for your services, and what your responsibility will be to them. Finding an Employer In 2011, most of the job possibilities for patient advocates are found either with hospitals or insurance companies. Hospitals have, for a long time, employed patient advocates, sometimes called patient representatives, who are tasked with helping patients. And word comes from an AdvoConnection member, through our Forum, that beginning in 2014 with healthcare reform, insurance companies will be required to have patient navigators on their staffs if they want to participate in insurance exchanges. Some have already begun to hire advocates. But here’s the problem with those jobs. Hospital patient advocates work for the hospital – not for the patient. They are part of the risk management group. The idea is to keep lawsuits at bay. To the extent that avoiding a lawsuit is helpful to both the patient AND the hospital, these hospital advocates may be able to help patients out. However, complaints can be found all over the internet by people who thought they could get help for a loved one in the hospital, but found that impossible. (I suspect this upsets hospital advocates as much as it does the patients – but they need to protect their paychecks. We can’t blame them.) Insurers will have a different goal, but will probably be no more helpful to patients. Their goal will be to save themselves money. Navigators will be available by phone to help patients, but they will be focused on the help they can provide that saves money. Just like the myriad “find a doctor” websites being put online by health insurers – we can’t trust that an insurance advocate will be providing what the patient needs instead of what’s good for the insurer. (Further, like hospital advocates, these insurance advocates will need to protect their paychecks, too.) Case…