1/24/2018 by Editor Share Your Story

For Advocates: Helping the Patient

If you are a family member or friend of a patient, here are some ways you can be helpful as an advocate, both in the doctor’s office and at the hospital.


Being a Patient Advocate at a Doctor’s Visit

Before you go, work out with the patient what your role will be. Ask the patient if you can ask the doctor questions after the exam.

  • Always have a pen and notebook, or a note-taking app such as Evernote to write down information the doctors and nurses give you. Write down as much of the
    conversation as possible between the patient and doctor so the patient can go back and review it later. Also write down the date and timefor the next appointment, and what number to call for test results.
  • Ask about anything you don’t understand. Find out what medication the patient is taking and why/for what purpose. Make a list including name, dosage,
    frequency and duration (e.g., two weeks vs. daily for the duration of a patient’s condition).
  • Find out if and when the patient should return for another visit and clarify any next steps. Schedule a follow-up appointment if necessary.
  • Ask for several referral recommendations if another specialist is suggested. Ask the provider which of the referrals might be the best fit for the patient you’re supporting, based on experience, the case and temperament.
  • Ask if the patient should to watch for certain warning signs or reactions for their condition, and when they should call the doctor.
  • If the patient received a new prescription, ask about possible side effects and what to do about them. Ask about potential interactions with existing medications (refer to your list if necessary).

In the Hospital

  • You can help the patient by staying with them as much as possible. When you aren’t able to be there, call the nurse to get updates several times a day. As shifts change, ask who the best contact will be during your absence. Ensure that your contact information is noted on the patient’s information board or chart.
  • Always have a pen and notebook, or a note-taking app such as Evernote to write down information the doctors and nurses give you. Write down the questions you and the patient you’re supporting
    want to ask the next time you see the doctor or nurse. Keep a running list of the names and roles
    of the patient’s care team, including doctors, nurses, aides and even housekeeping/food service staff. All are essential eyes and ears and their work has an
    impact on the patient’s care.
  • Ask about anything you don’t understand. Ask for written explanations or further reading; ask for the spellings of tests or medications with which you’re not familiar.
  • Add any medications being administered in the hospital to the patient’s medication list. Be sure to ask about why the medications are prescribed and whether there are any interactions with existing medications.
  • When the patient is discharged, make sure you understand the discharge instructions.
  • Get prescriptions for any new medications the doctor prescribes. Find out if the patient will have any changes to their existing medication regimen—should they continue taking the same medications as before they came to the hospital, or should they stop any of the medications they were taking before?
  • If there are new medications, research if they are covered by the patient’s insurance. If coverage or cost issues are identified, you can discuss with the prescribing physician whether an alternative is safe and effective, or start the process before discharge of getting the medication approved based on medical necessity.
  • Get contact information so you can schedule follow-up appointments with doctors or testing facilities.

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