The overall goal of a patient advocate is to provide patients and caregivers with the support and education they need so they can make their own decisions about their next steps. Advocates have the patient’s back (like a “wingman”) and help make their journey through the health care system as smooth as possible.

 

What is a Patient Advocate?

Everyone getting medical treatment should have someone to support them, to help raise questions, take notes, enhance communication with medical staff and make sure they are receiving patient-centered care. This person is called a patient advocate. An advocate can also help organize support from others, run errands, and generally support a patient’s needs throughout their care and treatment.

Ilene Corina, BCPA, president of the nonprofit Pulse Center for Patient Safety Education & Advocacy which originated the TakeCHARGE Campaign notes that, “Patient advocates may play different roles in different situations, but in the most basic sense, an advocate is a helper. They help the patient to be more involved in their health care, and hopefully, receive better outcomes.”

Learn more about Pulse Center for Patient Safety Education & Advocacy Pulse Center for Patient Safety Education & Advocacy

Note: An advocate is not the same as someone who you assign to speak for you on your advance directives (i.e. health care proxy). However, the advocate should know who the health care proxy is and who to call in case of emergency. An advocate is a helper, and is not necessarily authorized to make decisions for you unless they are assigned that role.

Who needs a patient advocate?

Everyone who is receiving treatment from the health care system needs an advocate — that is, someone (whether family, friend or a professional) to provide support to the patient and family, and to guard against any of the many mishaps that make medical error one of the leading causes of preventable death in this country. The sicker, less “on top of things” the patient is, the more that an advocate is needed.

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