Patient Advocates Humanize Health Care While Helping Patients

Patient advocates are people who assist patients with understanding the components of their medical diagnosis, treatment and with making informed decisions about their medical care. Some advocates are registered nurses. They have the clinical knowledge that is needed to help patients navigate the medical world. Other advocates might be family members that provide the assistance to the patients. Some nursing facilities have people employed by the facility to be advocates for the patients in care. Effective advocates may not be related or employed by a facility that provides the daily care, however, simply because their stake in the process is purely to help the patient and is not emotionally or financially motivated.

An advocate is a person who supports or speaks in favor of something. In this case in favor or support of a patient, but this field is growing and evolving. In addition to hospitals, rehabs and possibly nursing homes, there are patient advocates in research. These advocates inform the drug companies and medical professionals about the needs for certain types of drugs or trying to get new or experimental treatments approved by the FDA for widespread usage. In essence, they humanize the process so that the decision-makers, who are removed from the direct patient care, can remember that the patients are the ones who benefit or are hurt by their decisions.

An example of patient advocates in research is what occurred during the 1980s, when HIV and AIDS treatments were just emerging and the FDAs approval seemed to be lagging. The advocates applied pressure for quicker approval of the treatments so that the seriously ill patients could benefit from trying something. It worked, and the drugs made it to investigational trials. Other types of medicines were also approved for similar trials for other serious illnesses.</P> <P>Patient advocates for advanced cancer treatment is an established nonprofit that is dedicated to helping people with prostate cancer. As a nonprofit, they work from voluntary contributions, so again their only allegiance is to the patients, families and medical professionals that are involved in the diagnosis, care and treatment. The patient advocates for advanced cancer treatment is known as PAACT, and it provides information free of charge. Their philosophy is to provide education and information that will help patients and families make good decisions about their medical care.

Patient advocates, no matter the medical focus, have similar goals in mind. One stumbling block that proves difficult to some people is the insurance portion of the care. Settling for a treatment that is covered because a better treatment had been denied for coverage can be frustrating because it doesn't feel as though anyone listens or cares. The Patient Advocate Foundation is a place that can provide support for people stuck in that exact situation. The Patient Advocate Foundation has a website that has a lengthy list of resources from health care reform information to insurance appeal process information.

Patient advocates come to the assistance of patients in most areas of medicine, in research initiatives and in disseminating information to empower people who are stuck navigating a difficult system of insurance carriers, medical providers and even facilities. In short, providing a voice to those who are sick or ill can be a powerful role to play. Bringing issues to decision-makers that may have lost sight of the human element in their work is also a piece of advocacy. The stories and images are powerful ways to keep the humanity in health care. Well probably hear more from advocates in the future. It is good to have them to help, but sad that theres a need for them.

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