With the country focused on healthcare reform,  you may be hearing more about healthcare advocates or patient advocates. Though healthcare advocacy has been quietly gaining momentum around the country for years (with nurses leading the charge!) it’s only now that people are becoming aware of the benefits of working with a healthcare advocate.

Healthcare advocates offer their clients a multitude of services ranging from researching treatment options to coordinating healthcare services and resolving claims.  These professionals help patients make informed decisions about their healthcare choices by guiding them through the healthcare maze of tests, providers, technology, drugs, referrals and paperwork.

Even the federal government acknowledged the need for guidance through the healthcare system to ensure favorable patient outcomes with the passage of the Patient Navigator Outreach and Chronic Disease Prevention Act of 2005.

Think about it.  As medicine becomes more advanced and patients interact with more physicians and receive more drugs and face more complicated insurance coverage,  who better than nurses to serve as their guides through the system?

Healthcare advocacy grew out of a market need for a new kind of healthcare expert. The whirlwind medical breakthroughs of the past decades ushered in new technologies, advanced drug therapies and cutting-edge diagnostic testing. Even the savviest consumers who try to make decisions on their own about their healthcare now find themselves confused about their options. Because many patients who self-navigate the healthcare system tend to over or under estimate their problems, they may circumvent their primary care providers and end up in the emergency room or at the wrong specialist’s office. These false starts inflate the demand for services, which in turn gives rise to litigation and malpractice insurance as well as government mandates and regulations. As a result, healthcare costs have increased faster than inflation for over a decade.

True proactive healthcare advocacy provides a solution to the problem. Its targeted interventions geared toward changing behaviors and attitudes about healthcare result in better patient outcomes and lower healthcare costs. Simply stated,  healthcare advocates assist people facing medical decisions.

It’s good to have a nurse in the family.  But with the rise of professional healthcare advocacy it’s no longer a requirement for a positive healthcare experience.