Make Patient Advocacy More Than a Buzzword

Patient Support Systems

Just as there are several conditions that can lead to pain and several treatments that can help relieve it, there are many different types of patients. There are those with robust support systems who face their diagnoses surrounded by family and friends. There are those who come in with a dedicated person who is ready to fight for them and others who come in, educated and ready to fight for themselves. And still, some come in with no one. These are the patients who are feeling overwhelmed by options and information and isolated by their pain. These are the patients who too often fall through the cracks.

Busy Doctors, Brushed Off Patients

We don’t have to tell you doctors are busy. Other providers are, too. Time always seems to be scarce in healthcare; that’s just a fact of the industry. Unfortunately, this means that if patients don’t know how to voice their questions and concerns, they may not get as much time as they deserve and need.

The Importance of Advocacy

Patient advocacy is the key to ensuring that this doesn’t happen. Between helping patients keep track of their medications, treatments and appointments and simply keeping them hopeful, advocates support patients in multiple ways. This is important because it can actually aid a patient’s recovery. An article published in Pain made the point that catastrophizing and fixating on pain can cause significant emotional distress, disturbing sleep and contributing to the continuation of chronic pain. It also theorized that anything that distracts from these thoughts could improve sleep and help patients find some degree of relief from their chronic pain. This theory is similar to the one that prompts so many people to integrate cognitive behavioral therapy into their treatment plans.

Not only does support play an important role in patient recovery, it can also be helpful to patients in other ways. While undergoing medical treatments, patients may not want or have the ability to focus on the minutiae of their treatments. This can be to their detriment since the details can make all the difference when it comes to treatment. A New York Times article reported that up to 90% of all medical bills contain errors. For patients with chronic conditions, this is a big deal since any medical costs can quickly add up over time.

What Advocates Have in Common

At ReclaimAbility, we work to ensure this doesn’t happen by partnering with and advocating for patients as we guide them through the options available to them throughout their treatment. Whether a patients’ advocates are family members, friends, healthcare providers, or themselves, there are a few traits all advocates have in common.

  1. They are good listeners.
    From a practical point of view, it is important for an advocate to hear and understand every detail involved with a patient’s condition and relevant treatments. From a mental standpoint, any type of health condition can be not only physically, but emotionally and financially draining. Sometimes just having an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on makes all the difference.
  2. They understand the situation.
    This ties in with being a good listener. In order to advocate effectively, a person needs to understand all the factors at play in a situation. This means understanding the medical condition and options or being able and willing to research them as well as understanding the patient and his or her goals.
  3. They will champion the needs of the patient.
    When you’re not feeling well, the last thing you want to do is deal with difficult situations, but sometimes it takes a little persistence for your voice to be heard. However, pain can be incredibly draining, and some patients may not have the energy for this. That’s why they need advocates.
  4. They can put aside personal biases.
    With so many treatment modalities, it’s easy to get stressed and confused. Skilled advocates can educate a patient without overwhelming her or him. Advocates also know when it is time to let a patient make decisions and can leave their own biases at the door and respect the patient’s wishes.
  5. They are organized.
    Two heads are better than one. It’s always helpful for patients to have someone who can help them remember all the details of their condition and treatments and help keep it all straight.

ReclaimAbility Advocates

More than championing the patient’s legal and human rights, an advocate has the obligation to inform and support a patient. This means that he or she must have the ability to be impartial and prevent personal biases from clouding his or her judgment.

At ReclaimAbility, we take the time to educate our patients on their conditions. We speak to them about their options, but more importantly, we listen. We do all we can to understand each individual’s situation so that even those without intricate support systems receive the highest quality of care.

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