Advocate. One who speaks or writes in support of another or a cause.¹ While a person can advocate for any individual, group, or cause, this article address patient advocacy-in particular, the individual who pleads for a another which ultimately has an effect on a patient’s health. So how do we become a patient’s advocate, or, in many cases, your own advocate?
This article is intended to specifically address adult advocacy. Even the most healthy and well educated individual that incurs a health crisis needs an advocate. Unfortunately, the most vulnerable, those that are elderly, the uninsured, underinsured, and those lacking the necessary skills to navigate the healthcare world, need patient advocacy the most.
Hospital admissions and subsequent discharge planning is essential for patient advocacy. The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has been keeping track of hospital readmissions and their causes. Oftentimes, these readmissions can be due to lack of education and understanding with medications, follow-up tests and physician appointments.
Recently when my significant other was readmitted into the hospital on several occasions for an unexpected health issue that was not resolved, he was not able to understand his discharge instructions. And why is that? Not from lack of education or knowledge. Well versed in the medical field with an undergraduate degree in biology and work experience that included many years in hemodialysis, he was unable to understand because of lack of English language fluency on the part of the registered nurse providing his discharge instructions. This is a prime example of the need for another family member or friend to be present for any questions, concerns or updates regarding the patient. And when you are unable to get the answers that you need or feel a lack of understanding, always escalate the issue to the next level, such as the charge nurse, nursing management, or someone in a supervisory role.
Many federal legislative activities and non-profit organizations such as The National Patient Advocate Foundation (www.nationalpatientadvocatefoundation.org) and the American Medical Association (assn.org) offer valuable tips and avenues for support regarding patient advocacy.
And remember, when advocating for a friend or loved one, keep a detailed log of conversations that include the name, time, and dates when the conversations occurred, and what the issues was concerning. Be the advocate, for the person and for yourself. ©
²Patient Advocacy. Google Images. Google.com/patient advocacy/images