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Patients’ Advocates in Hospitals – Going to the Line
Updated March 2017 From time to time I hear from a patient who complains about a situation that occurred during a hospital stay – usually the spouse or child of a hospital patient. The great majority of those notes say, “I spoke to the patient advocate in the hospital but they couldn’t do anything for me!” When I reply, I explain that the hospital patient advocate works for the hospital – not for the patient. Hospital patient advocates usually report to the legal/risk management department in the hospital and get their paychecks from the hospital. They help when they can, but the hospital gives them a line they just can’t cross. That’s the fact I know. And a couple of times I have met hospital “Patient Relations” people. But until this week, I had never had occasion to try to work with them to help a patient. This week’s hospital complaint email came from Donna (name is changed) who was a volunteer kidney donor to a friend – not even a relative – just a good friend. She was flown from her home in another state to New York Presbyterian – Columbia late last summer, completed the surgery, and returned home. Since then she has had a number of complications, she has been out of work, and she has been in pain. During these past several months, she has had to return to NYP-C hospital to be treated for the complications she has suffered. Part of her agreement as a volunteer donor was that all her expenses would be covered, of course. However – there seems to have been a disconnect with the latest trip to NYC for her treatment and as a result, Donna didn’t get her travel expense reimbursement in time to prevent her from losing her apartment. She and her daughter are now living with someone else – and Donna wrote to me in major frustration. I don’t usually get involved. I usually find someone else to advocate for patients because I’m not a real, honest-to-goodness, hold-a-patient’s-hand, one-on-one patient advocate. My work takes place through keyboards and…