Health or Patient Advocate or Navigator Occupation

Among the many forms of patient advocacy is the ability to help patients succeed through the healthcare system. These system experts may be referred to as health advocates, health navigators, patient advocates, or patient navigators.

There are many facets to access to quality healthcare. And medicine itself, such as diagnosis and treatment. There are bills and payments, it follows all healthcare. There is one aspect of good healthcare that sometimes doesn’t get recognized until a challenge is presented: navigating the system.

Health and patient navigators are experts in helping patients experience the best possible healthcare system by helping them navigate successfully.

(These roles are different from health insurance navigators. Health insurance navigators help people find appropriate health insurance through the public health insurance exchange created by the Affordable Care Act.)

Competencies and Responsibilities of Patient Advocates

  • Develop a list of provider options and recommended features
  • Coordinate second (and third) opinions
  • Accompanying patients
  • Hospital bedside monitoring with a focus on patient safety
  • Medication review and coordination to minimize conflict and non-adherence
  • Research diagnosis or treatment options
  • Facilitate communication between patients, caregivers and physicians
  • Take notes during appointments and hospital stays
  • Research the possibility of clinical trials
  • Translate medical records and orders into plain language, making them more patient-friendly and easier to follow
  • Develop a list of questions for patients to ask their provider
  • Coordinate physician appointments and lab visits
  • Coordinate with other professionals who help patients, such as social workers, nursing home or assisted living administrators, etc.
  • Develop a care plan, especially for people with multiple health challenges
  • Review medical costs, then negotiate lowering those costs
  • Obtain permission for treatment that insurance companies may initially deny

Who hires health or patient navigators or advocates?

  • People who have recently been diagnosed with a difficult disease or condition
  • Patients who need help coordinating the advice of many doctors (for several medical issues)
  • Spouse is asked to help his or her loved one but finds it difficult to put aside emotions to help make objective decisions
  • The older person may be forgetful or confused about his or her providers and medical needs (or fear that he or she will become forgetful or confused)
  • Someone who helps an older relative in need, especially if they are in charge of caring or acting as a surrogate for a loved one living in another place
  • Parents who need help coordinating caring for their children, especially if the child has major or multiple health problems

Required qualifications

Not all patient navigators have a healthcare background, although many do. Some help relatives or friends through difficult medical circumstances. Others have learned to navigate the healthcare system on their own based on their disease or condition and want to help others do the same.

  • Few patient advocates or navigators are employed by others. Most work in an individual capacity, running their own navigation consultancy or business. To tackle self-employment, having an entrepreneurial mindset is an advantage.
  • The Patient Advocate Certification Board provides certification.
  • There are a few organizations and universities that offer additional certificate programs in patient advocacy or navigation.

How a Patient Advocate or Navigator Works

Most patient advocates are independent, working for one or more patients at a time in a private practice (their own business). They are employed by the patient or the patient’s caregiver.

Their services are paid for directly by patients or caregivers, sometimes by trustees or third parties, but rarely (if at all) through reimbursement models such as insurance. They can charge by the hour or by the project for limited duties. They may have an office for meetings, or they may work with patients from home. Each navigator handles his or her job differently.

organizations and trade groups

  • The Alliance of Professional Health Advocates is an organization that supports advocates and navigators who start, grow and market their private advocacy practice
  • National Association of Health Advocacy Consultants