What is a Patient Advocate?


by, National Association of Medication Access & Patient Advocacy

A healthcare advocate provides assistance and support for both patients and their loved ones who are trying to navigate our healthcare system. Whether the patient is acutely sick or has a chronic health condition, it can be a confusing and frightening experience. Either trained advocates or simply a trusted family member or friend can help patients understand their treatment options, assist with life-altering decisions, and directly communicate with healthcare providers on behalf of the patient to ensure they get the care they need.

When first diagnosed with an acute or chronic health condition, patients become quickly overwhelmed by the amount of information and the medical jargon used by healthcare providers. Having a healthcare advocate available to ask questions and clarify information about a patient’s diagnosis and prescribed treatment is suddenly invaluable. Advocates can act as a “translator” from medical terminology to language the patient can understand, allowing patients to comprehend their treatment options and make informed decisions fully. They can also act as a liaison between patients and providers so patients can articulate their concerns and preferences and ensure their wishes are respected when medical decisions are made. This mutual clarity and understanding reduce the anxiety about their diagnosis and treatment, potentially negatively impacting their recovery.

Healthcare advocates can also assist with scheduling appointments, organizing medical records, and deciphering insurance claims. Specialized care for patients with complex or chronic medical conditions may not be readily available in rural areas. Advocates can also help identify a specialist and care center to meet their specific needs.

Healthcare advocates also provide vital support for patients and their families by offering a sympathetic ear, a shoulder to lean on, and advice on coping with the emotional aspects of an illness. Getting an accurate diagnosis and finding the proper treatment can be a long, arduous road for patients dealing with chronic conditions who have been told they’re “crazy” or their symptoms are “all in their head.” Providing reassurance and validation can alleviate some of the isolation, anxiety, and depression experienced by these patients and those with terminal illnesses.

Overall, healthcare advocates act as a resource for patients and their families by providing critical information, communicating with healthcare providers, and providing emotional support. This combined support creates an empowered patient who can navigate the healthcare system more confidently and ultimately achieve better health outcomes.