This week I am pleased to introduce guest blogger, Paige Lennox, RN, founder of Canadian Health Advocates Inc. (CHAI). Paige knows the system from both the patient perspective and the healthcare practitioner’s, and is able to use that knowledge to empower others. Here's what she has to say about the importance and need for patient advocates:
"Whether it’s been by choice or simply due to circumstances, the solo life suits you. You wouldn’t have it any other way. You’ve been relatively healthy up until now. There’s been the occasional illness, but nothing you couldn’t handle. But what happens when you get sick? Could a Patient Advocate help?"
"Being alone and having to deal with the healthcare system can be intimidating. You’re afraid you might not be making the best decisions. Are you interpreting what you hear from your doctor properly? A Patient Advocate can support you throughout your illness when you’re not at your best".
What Do You Do Next?
You’ve always been able to deal with the problems in your life. But, for the first time, you aren’t sure where to turn. The doctor mentioned invasive tests, several types of medications, surgery and more. While you are relatively comfortable with your own doctor, you know there will be specialists called in…professionals you’ve never met.
It’s difficult to recall everything your doctor said, but you did understand enough to know that you are actually facing an illness. You don’t know if you’ll be able to handle your job responsibilities, let alone the complexities of the Canadian healthcare system. And there’s no one at home to assist you.
In the past, you thought that if you were ever in this position, you would know exactly what to do. You would:
· Ask more questions
· Research treatment options
· Maybe even get a second opinion.
But, in the heat of the battle, you’re having a difficult time knowing where to begin. Who do you ask? Should you find another doctor? If so, where?
Support Throughout Your Illness
You know that it would be a good idea to have someone with you at your important medical appointments. Your doctor may have even suggested it. A second pair of eyes and ears could only help. Following your last appointment, you realise how little you retained of the discussion.
Now, more than ever, it’s critical for you to understand what your doctor is advising.
In addition, your doctor mentioned surgery. What will happen when you are hospitalised? The length of hospital stays in Canada has decreased. This is good news. It’s generally believed that a shorter hospital stay keeps healthcare costs down and also speeds up recovery time.
But leaving the hospital presents another set of issues. You’ll need support.
You’ve seen it happen to others who live alone. Initially, a few neighbours or co-workers may stop in. But then the visits stop. You understand that your casual acquaintances are just that, casual. They will not be the people you can depend on when you really need assistance.
And when there is no spouse, no family members or close friends who can help, what do you do? You will have a more successful recovery if you follow your health team’s orders, eat right, and monitor your symptoms. Who can do that for you when you are sick and alone?
Your Patient Advocate, that’s who.
What is a Patient Advocate?
A Patient or Health Advocate is a professional who can help you through a challenging illness. Health Advocates:
· Navigate the complexities of the healthcare system
· Speak and act on your behalf when you are unable to do so for yourself
A Patient Advocate is someone with a deep understanding of how the healthcare system works and how to get things done. They understand the doctors, as well as the best way to work within the system. They can help you get through the process when you are not at your best.
Patient Advocates have backgrounds in nursing, paramedicine, social work or medicine. They are able to competently represent you and help you throughout your illness.
You’ve hired people in the past to do things you were either unable or unwilling to do. This is no different. Except it’s your health.
What Are the Patient Advocate Services?
Your Advocate provides reliable support during your illness and recovery in the following ways:
· Research your options and ask your healthcare provider for more information
· Schedule appointments, coordinate your treatments, and arrange follow-ups
· Find resources, such as doctors and specialists, and help you get a second opinion if you’d like
· Keep track of your symptoms, their severity and duration
· Ensure that you use your medications as prescribed
· Take notes during your appointments and speak for you, if necessary
· Get copies of medical records and help you understand their significance
· Negotiate to prevent delays in appointments or treatments
· Request longer appointment times or consultations with your doctor
· Deal with supplementary insurance when it is needed
· Troubleshoot complaints with your doctor or hospital and intervene if something goes wrong
And, there’s something more your Health Advocate can do.
Support for the Whole You
No matter how much you enjoy your solo lifestyle, illness can underscore your vulnerability. When you are physically challenged, your mental well-being may suffer. It’s not uncommon to feel sadness, even fear. These emotions are normal, but they do affect your ability to get well. In the past, you have always managed. But, it isn’t easy to be optimistic in the face of illness. Your Patient Advocate is there for you, fighting for the best possible outcome.
Your Health Advocate In Your Corner
Being sick is never easy. But, when you are, you need help. Some people have family or friends close by who can fill that role. If you do not, it’s important to consider who can provide the assistance you will need.
If you think back on your life, some of your proudest accomplishments would not have happened without good information and even better, help. It’s time again for both.
You need someone in your corner. It may, very well, affect the outcome of your treatment.
Consider a Health Advocate for your needs. Call today to set up a free consultation. This isn’t something you should do alone. With a Patient Advocate, you can be assured that you can manage what lies ahead.
As a fellow Health Advocate, I couldn't have explained health advocacy any better, so THANK YOU Paige for an excellent blog!
If you have any questions about health advocacy please feel free to connect with me or leave a comment below.
Healthcare Consultant, in4MED
*No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional.