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Patient Advocates Can Make A Big Difference to Your Health

What is a patient advocate?

A patient advocate is anyone selected by the patient or family who promotes and supports the patient as they work through the health care system. Health care in Canada can be very complicated and at times confusing which can easily overwhelm the patient. It is easy to become lost in the system or uninformed about the services that are available.

A patient advocate looks out for the best interest of you as the patient, to ensure you receive the most from your health care. She or he works to ensure you and your family understand your current health situation and helps to solve some of challenges that you may face with the health care system and post hospital discharge.

Who can be a patient advocate?

There are several types of patient advocates:

  • An advocate can be a family member, friend or someone you trust.
  • Private Professional Patient Advocates who are hired by the patient or family.
  • Hospital Patient Advocates help to resolve complaints or solve issues that surround a hospital stay or healthcare issue.
  • Psychiatric Patient Advocates are available to you if you were admitted to a hospital as a psychiatric patient.

How to choose a patient advocate?

When choosing a private patient advocate or someone to advocate on your behalf there are a few requirements a person has to meet to make a good patient advocate. These include:

  • Choose someone dependable and trustworthy.
  • It is important for you to pick someone who is assertive and has good communication skills.
  • The person needs to be available to attend doctors’ appointments, meetings or do post follow-up with healthcare professionals.
  • The person must be tactful and can work well with your family, doctor, and nurses to relay information and resolve any issues without escalating the situation.
  • Be sure to share knowledge of your current health situation and choose someone willing and able to research your current health information.
  • Healthcare knowledge is a definite asset.

It is also advisable to have a patient advocate with a clear understanding of the Canadian health care system. Their experience will be invaluable in case your encounter any process or legal  challenges.

Once you have selected a patient advocate, you need to decide on what you require him or her to handle in terms of your health care.  Making these decisions earlier on is advised to reduce the chances of confusion arising on the roles of your patient advocate.

Items include:

  • Get more information and ask specific questions to clarify your current health situation to better explain it to you and your family.
  • Explain all your health care options including doctors, hospitals, diagnostics tests & procedure and your available treatment choices.
  • Create a caregiver plan with clear instructions to ensure those who are supporting you understand your needs and treatment plans.
  • Write down all the instructions you get from the doctor.
  • Decide on whether or not you would like your patient advocate to accompany you to doctor’s appointments or any treatment procedures and share the schedule.

It is also important to choose your patient advocate as your chosen spokesperson for you and your family members. This will guarantee that there is a consistent communication channel between you, your family and the doctors & caregivers, which greatly reduces the amount of misunderstanding between either party about your health care.

Stonebridge Community Services provides the patient advocate service in the Tri-county area (Oxford, Elgin, and Norfolk).  While some organizations charge over hundreds of dollars an hour, Stonebridge is only $56.50 per hour for a Registered Nurse. For some families, a more effective and affordable option is to choose a monthly plan – A Nurse Advisor can be available for a $180 Monthly fee.  This allows the advisor to become much more familiar with the medical history and family on an ongoing basis.

Having a patient advocate is all about making the healthcare system work for you.

For more information on this service, call Stonebridge Community Services at 519-842-3200.

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