That’s when having a health or patient advocate can help.
A health advocate can be a family member, friend, trusted coworker, or a hired professional who accompanies you to your appointments and asks questions, writes down information, and speaks up for you so you can better understand your illness and get the care you need. (For more about hiring an advocate, see the sidebar on the next page.)
Research shows that quality health care requires taking an active role in decisions about your care. If you’re facing a difficult medical decision, it’s a good idea to bring someone with you who can help focus on your care when you’re not fully up to it
Of course, many encounters with the medical system are routine and don’t require the use of a patient advocate. But there are instances when an advocate can be valuable. For example, if you’ve had a series of tests and you’re concerned the results may reveal a diagnosis such as cancer, you might want to bring an advocate with you to hear and discuss the results.
Getting a diagnosis of a serious illness can be an overwhelming experience. You’re likely to be distracted and miss hearing important information. An advocate can gather that information for you and ask the questions that need to be asked.
Who makes a good health advocate?
A health advocate should be a person who is calm, pays attention to details, and can ask questions and state information clearly. If possible, choose someone who knows you well. Be clear about what kind of help you need and what worries you.