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  • Writer's pictureTom Vachet

Empowering Patients through Health Care Advocacy

Several factors make the United States healthcare system complicated. There are a variety of healthcare insurance plans offered through employers, and the government also has plans such as Medicare, Medicaid, and the Veterans Health Administration system. The Affordable Care Act also set up individual plans offered through insurance markets. Therefore, patients must understand the healthcare system because the type of health plan affects the cost of healthcare and the kind of treatment a person gets.

Advocacy programs, and Health Care Navigators, help patients navigate a complex healthcare system. These advocacy programs help patients get the best possible treatment and play a significant role in the relationship between patients and healthcare providers. Patient advocates, whether individuals or healthcare professionals, represent patients or help them in decision-making. With a complex healthcare system, even the most informed patients experience difficulties protecting their rights, keeping track of their treatment, or getting the right medication. For example, miscommunication may result in a patient getting the wrong medical care.

However, a Health Care Navigator can explain health information to patients to ensure there are no communication gaps, improving the overall healthcare for the patient. Older adults with cognitive impairment may also have difficulty navigating the healthcare system. It may also be difficult for family members and other caregivers who must fill out insurance forms and other documents written in healthcare jargon. In such cases, a Health Care Navigator can help educate the patient and help them make informed decisions. The Health Care Navigator will also guide patients in matters to do with insurance and other administrative and legal tasks. Moreover, the Health Care Navigator is better placed to research specialists in a patient’s insurance network and help schedule an appointment with a suitable specialist.

Sometimes, a patient, such as those with chronic diseases, must meet different healthcare providers, including multiple physicians, clinicians, and specialists. Each healthcare provider has a different type of information and communication style. A Health Care Navigator can be present during a doctor’s appointment and takes notes to review with the patient. Doctor appointments can overwhelm patients, and they may not understand the information relayed. Patients may also have difficulty asking the right questions about their condition. However, an advocate can ask the healthcare provider informed questions for clarity and to help minimize mistakes. Once a patient has received a diagnosis, they may fail to understand the condition or treatment options due to worry or stress. The Health Care Navigator can help the patient understand the diagnosis and treatment options.

At the same time, the Health Care Navigator also can offer emotional support to the patient. Besides, the notes the advocate takes can later help to check whether the patient is adhering to the doctor’s recommendations. Since Health Care Navigators support patients in their recovery journey, they can use the opportunity to encourage healthy lifestyles. In addition, they can check on patients to ensure they follow healthy lifestyles, such as regular physical activity and nutritious meals. Ultimately, Health Care Navigators also play a significant role in improving patient engagement in healthcare organizations. This means improved quality outcomes, patient experience, and cost-saving efficiency.

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