A Patient Advocate supports and promotes patients' rights as they navigate the health care system. A Patient Advocate will make sure you are informed and confident about the decisions you are making and will assist you to achieve the best overall health outcome.
A Patient Advocate will not provide medical or legal advice or make any decisions for you. They do not replace your Medical Power of Attorney or next-of-kin.
Patient Advocacy in Australia
Patient Advocates can be found at some hospitals and some work independently.
Independent patient advocacy is a relatively new option for patients in Australia. The first patient advocacy service was established 5 years ago and has become one of the support options patients can use when they are confronted with serious and complex illness.
In Australia the majority of cases arise when patients, their families or their health providers believe that a person's outcomes, experience or adherence/continuation with treatment would be improved with expert, independent support that travels with the patient across all treatment settings and is available to the patient around the clock.
What does a Patient Advocate do?
Some of the services a Patient Advocate provides include:
- Attending an appointment to assist the patient to ask the necessary questions and understand the answers so they are better informed about their health care plan;
- Checking-in regularly with the patient, carer, medical practitioner or nursing staff to ensure consistent quality of care and peace of mind;
- Assisting a medical practitioner to form a better working relationship with a patient;
- Arranging second opinions or specialist appointments for medical conditions;
- Assisting in disputes with private health care funds;
- Assisting in resolving confusing or conflicting medical opinions between treating practitioners;
- Providing advice and guidance on available health care resources.
Who is the Client?
Generally a Patient Advocate will work for a client who is also the patient. However, there are many other people involved with a patient who could be the client: family, partners, friends or guardians.
Benefits of using a Patient Advocate
Patient advocates are engaged to achieve outcomes that the patients identify and so they ensure that care is patient focused and that a patient's individual needs are met.
What Kind of Background, Experience or Training do Private Advocates Have?
Private Advocates come from many different backgrounds. Some have been nurses or doctors. Other advocates have experience in caring for a parent, child or friend and now find they are interested in doing the same for others.
How Much Does the Service Cost?
The cost will vary depending on each individual. Engagement of an independent advocate is on a private basis and the fee is not normally refundable through any health insurance scheme.