Tips for Selecting an Advocate
With so many types of “advocates” advertising that they can help you with your health care issues, how do you know who will do the best job for you? You may be wondering how an independent Certified Healthcare Advocate differs from a hospital’s patient advocate or hospital social worker, a geriatric care manager, patient navigator, medical adviser or healthcare adviser? Their roles, services, training, experience, licensing, certification, education, and allegiances can vary greatly. Here are some questions to ask when hiring a professional to assist you with your most important health issues:
Who do they work for?
Professionals who work for a hospital, clinic or care facility are employees of that company and work on its behalf to help improve care, control costs, minimize risk and exposure, and effectively transition their patients to the next setting. Although they are committed to providing you with quality medical treatment, their ultimate responsibility is to that company —not you. These professionals typically only provide services to you while you are in their facility.
Recommendation: If you or a loved one are having issues with the care that you are receiving in a medical facility, need help outside of a medical facility or may need ongoing assistance with your healthcare, hire an independent professional to assist you. That way, you have confidence that they are working for you and have your best interests at heart.
As an independent Certified Healthcare Advocate, I work for you. Your health and welfare are my only concerns. I can be an ongoing resource for you as your health needs change, whether or not you are in a medical or care facility. I will be on your side if issues arise and I will be a strong advocate on your behalf.
How are they compensated?
Many independent advocates, care managers and health advisors accept referral fees and commissions from the facilities, care providers and medical equipment suppliers that they may refer you to. This could create a conflict of interest or bias towards recommending those providers. How do you know if their referrals are in your best interest?
Recommendation: Ask anyone who you are considering hiring how they get paid and whether they accept referral fees or commissions, especially if they offer their services to you for free. Hiring someone who doesn’t accept referral fees and commissions will ensure that they don’t have a conflict of interest, and will help ensure that their advice and referrals will be in your best interest.
I work for you and do not accept referral fees or commissions. In fact, I may be able to help you negotiate lower rents or fees from some facilities or providers. Since I work for you, you’ll know that I always have your best interest at heart.
How long have they done this type of work? Have they worked in this type of setting?
Recommendation: To improve your care when in a medical facility, it is important to hire someone who has worked in that type of environment and understands the processes and protocols; ideally, someone who is seen and respected by your medical team as a peer. Look for someone with a healthcare background who has ideally worked in a similar type of setting.
I have 18 years of experience as an Occupational Therapist working in acute care hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, outpatient clinics, and home healthcare. I have provided direct clinical care to patients of many ages, and much of that experience was in managerial and leadership roles. I understand how these facilities operate.
What education, training, licenses and certifications do they have?
Almost anyone can call themselves a healthcare advocate, patient advocate, geriatric care manager, patient navigator, medical advisor, or health care advisor. Use of those titles does not always require specific training, education, testing, licensing or certification.
Recommendation: Look for an advocate, advisor or care manager that has formal training, schooling, professional certifications, professional licenses and, ideally, a healthcare background. Look for the word “certified” or “licensed” in their title, and/or a health care degree.
I am a Certified Healthcare Advocate (CHA) which I earned by successfully completing the Healthcare Liaison, Inc.® Credentialing Program. I received my Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of Southern California and my Bachelor’s Degree in Human Development from the University of California, Davis. I am also in the process of becoming a Board Certified Patient Advocate (BCPA), a new international certification offered through the Patient Advocate Certification Board (PACB).
What industry standards are they held accountable to?
Recommendation: Hire an advocate who is actively involved in their industry’s professional organizations, regularly attends educational seminars to improve their knowledge and skills, stays current with recent developments, and is required to adhere to strict industry standards, best practices and ethical standards.
I am a current member in good standing of the National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants (NAHAC), the Alliance of Professional Health Advocates (APHA) and NorCal Patient Advocates. I subscribe to and am held accountable to the highest standards and practices in my field, in order to maintain my certification and good standing.
Do they have insurance to protect you?
Recommendation: For your protection and peace of mind, when entrusting someone to help you with your most critical health decisions and care planning, make sure that they are fully insured. Proper insurance can be expensive, so many providers don’t have it.
I have professional liability coverage. Contact me for more details.
The Bottom Line
As an independent Certified Healthcare Advocate I work for YOU. My only loyalty and responsibilities are to you. I do not accept referral fees or commissions from the people providing your care or housing. I am a healthcare professional with extensive training and experience working in multiple health care settings. I have specific additional training and certification as a Certified Healthcare Advocate and am a member in good standing with my industry’s leading professional organizations. My many satisfied clients demonstrate that I will be a strong, effective voice on your behalf and a trusted partner in your care. Please contact me, so we can explore how I can help you get the best possible care.