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Patient Advocacy and the Allegiance Factor
As we prepare for Private Professional Patient Advocates Week next week, I’ve been asked by a handful of people what the difference is between a private patient advocate and any other health advocate. It’s an important question, and the answer is actually quite simple. The difference between a private patient advocate or navigator, and those found in hospitals, through insurance companies, or other places, is what I call The Advocate’s Allegiance Factor. It’s based on who is producing the paycheck. Private patient advocates are paid directly by the patient or the patient’s caregiver and have only one allegiance – to the patient. The patient’s needs, whether they be medical, navigational, financial or locational – are the prime concern of the patient advocate. Period. However… If an advocate is employed by a hospital, her allegiance is to the hospital. She works for the risk management department and her job is to keep the hospital out of hot water, which she MAY be able to do by helping the patient (or maybe not.) Her job is to keep lawsuits at bay and save the hospital money – which she does by helping patients (but only to an extent – and not if it interferes with the hospital’s needs.) If an advocate works for an insurance company, then her allegiance is to the insurance company. Insurers hire advocates to make recommendations that will save them money and help the patient, too. As long as it benefits both – fine. But if not, do you see the insurer’s patient advocate making a recommendation to the patient that might very good for the patient, but expensive for the insurer? Not a chance. Medical home advocates are the same way – they are the same as the advocate who works for a hospital. It’s great that they are available, and they are probably the closest to a private advocate, but they are still not working directly for the patient. A private patient advocate’s ONLY interest is the patient and his or her well-being. There is no one else trying to save the system money or keep…