By: Bob Bacheler, MSN, CCRN, CF
Managing Director, Flying Angels, Inc. One International Plaza, Suite 550 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19113 firstname.lastname@example.org Office: 610-228-4667 Mobile: 610-209-2100 Patient advocacy has been around for many years. In the past, a patient advocate usually meant a member of the family, a good friend or perhaps a clergyman or pastor. Family members, friends and others can still fulfill this role. However, it long ago became a position held by people who, while not medically trained themselves, were familiar with the operation of the healthcare system. The idea is to have a person who understands the ins and outs of the healthcare system to advocate on your behalf with doctors, nurses and other medical staff. Patient advocates are independent of the medical system, but at the same time familiar with it. A person hires a patient advocate in much the same way they hire an accountant or attorney. This way the client knows that the advocate works solely for them and is not beholden to any other interests. While patient advocates are not covered by insurance, they can be an invaluable ally in the client’s corner. What Does A Patient Advocate Do? What Patient Advocates do is either navigational (making appointments, following up on paperwork, making sure prescriptions are filled, and such) – or money-related (auditing medical bills, negotiating with insurers or hospitals). Advocates in those positions do offer a good example of the fundamental services that an advocate provides for a patient. For example, they closely monitor the patient’s well-being, both physical and emotional, and give them an opportunity to discuss those issues. A patient advocate acts as a liaison between the patient and medical staff. In general, patient advocates help cut through red tape and get patients what they need. They act as a supporter, promoter and spokesperson. It’s a key position to help people get better medical care, and it leads to better patient outcomes. Where to find a Patient Advocate? Fortunately, there are many organizations that function as advocates for patients. Flying Angels works directly within many of these organizations. They include the following. • Academy of Special Needs Planners (ASNP) • The National Guardianship Association (NGA) • The Aging LifeCare Association (ALCA) • The Alliance of Professional Health Advocates (APHA) Flying Angels also is a proud sponsor and exhibitor at the International Conference on Patient Advocacy (ICOPA), which is being held this October in Chicago. The theme of this year’s conference is “a rising tide floats all boats.” Flight Nurse Patient Advocacy Unlike most medical situations, flight nurses and their patients are on the move. They must plan out transportation to the airport, through airport security and boarding the plane. They also have to ensure that a patient is comfortable on the plane itself. In addition to being a patient advocate while going through the airport and onto the plane, flight nurses also must ensure that patients have all their proper medications during the flight. They may keep track of their wheelchair and other medical equipment and make sure it is stored safely aboard the plane. Flight nurses also help patients make informed decisions during their trip. This can include everything from going through security to finding the right seat on the plane that gives them the best access to the bathroom or the exit from the plane. Another part of patient advocacy is also explaining any medical terms or transport related issues, such as how the TSA conducts security checks on wheelchairs. Conclusion While Patient advocacy was originally left to families, designated friends and clergy, the complexity of the modern health care system can easily overwhelm a patient, and the best of intentioned lay persons. Professional Patient advocacy started with nurses working in hospitals. They have long acted as a liaison between patients and other members of the medical staff. Modern Patient Advocates are highly skilled professionals who work directly for the patient and make sure they get the best care from the healthcare system possible.