Most hospitals have one or more patient advocates on staff. They are people you and your family can turn to for help in dealing with various problems you may have during your hospital stay.
Advocates may have other titles, such as ombudsmen or patient services consultants.
How can a patient advocate help?
An advocate may:
Make sure that you and your family know all the facts about your condition and your care.
Give you and your family emotional support.
Help you get copies of your medical records.
Help with delays in getting tests, treatment, or information.
Work with the hospital when you have complaints.
Work with your employer if you're facing possible job discrimination because of medical issues.
Help you understand and deal with hospital bills and your insurance.
Where else can you get professional help?
Not all hospitals have patient advocates. But you may be able to find help elsewhere:
Your employer may offer patient advocacy services as part of your benefit package.
Your insurance company may employ advocates who can help you with hospital billing problems.
You may be able to hire a private patient advocate. These professionals offer a wide range of services, from being with you when you talk to your doctor, to checking your records for medical errors, to making sure that your questions are always answered.
The Patient Advocate Foundation (www.patientadvocate.org) offers free advice and assistance to people who need help with medical bills and insurance company appeals.
How can a friend or relative help?
Having a relative or friend as your helper is always a good idea. Depending on your condition, this helper can:
Spend time in your room with you, watching over you.
Alert nurses when something is wrong or you need something.
Make sure you get your questions answered and ask questions you haven't thought of.
Take notes during doctor visits.
Make sure you get your medicines on time.
Get on the Internet and do research for you.
Ideally, this helper will also be the person you have named as your health care agent.