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Need an advocate? Look for the helpers

Advocates go by many names, and come from many different backgrounds.

But no matter what you call us, the service we provide is the same - we are the helpers. We are the people in the healthcare world who are able to connect dots. We can take complicated information and boil it down for your mom, your neighbor, or your hairdresser, in a way they will understand…because we speak your language, but know how to navigate the world of healthcare as well.

Advocacy is still a new industry, and is still evolving as a service offered for consumers. One of the most important parts of this industry is that it operates as a network – no individual advocate is siloed; they are surrounded by resources and connections that support them in their work. The complicated nature of the healthcare system necessitates a nearly endless supply of patient advocates to guide people through it. Therefore, the general consensus is not only is there no need for competition between advocates, but we must work together to give patients the support they need.

As a new advocate navigating this network, one skill that will be important as our network evolves will be the ability to explain what we do. There is great work being done to formalize and codify the results advocates are able to produce. Currently, CHCAO (the Coalition of Health Care Advocacy Organizations) is circulating a survey until January 20 that asks patients, advocates, caregivers and providers about their experiences working with advocates. This survey will provide insight into the impact advocates have had thus far, and will demonstrate the value they can provide. Having data to lean on will help us as advocates to legitimize our work as partners in medical care, and will help potential clients understand more easily what services we are able to provide.

Everyone has a medical horror story it seems these days. However, more and more people are realizing that they don’t have to figure it out alone. As we band together and learn more about how we can help each other, we will only become a stronger force for helping people navigate this system together!

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