1/25/2018 by Editor Share Your Story

How to Work with a Patient Advocate

When choosing an advocate, first decide what you want the person to help you with, and what you want to handle yourself. Common ways that an advocate can help you is by:

  • Accompanying you to medical appointments and treatments
  • Spelling out your options for hospitals, doctors, tests and treatment choices
  • Helping you get information
  • Asking questions and writing down answers
  • Ensuring your wishes are carried out if you are not able to do so yourself

Before you engage an advocate, decide how involved you want this person to be in your treatment decisions, and how much you are willing to let them know about your condition. Talk to your doctor and health care team and let them know this person will be your advocate, and how you want them involved. Also, let the rest of your family know the role you have chosen for your advocate.

There are a number of forms that patients and their advocates should have on file, including:

HIPAA release form. This allows advocates to speak to providers and receive information about the patient’s condition, and to have access to the patient’s medical records. (Here is an example).

Designation of a personal  advocate form. This confirms and records the patient’s intention to name a personal advocate. Some states, such as Michigan, have a required form; your hospital patient advocate should be able to tell you if your state requires such a form.

Advance directives. These are written statements of a person’s wishes regarding medical treatment, made to ensure those wishes are carried out should the person be unable to communicate them to a doctor. Advance directives can take many forms, and laws about them are different in each state. CaringInfo, a national consumer education and engagement program of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, allows you to download state-specific advance directives.

Advance directives include:

  • Health care proxy (medical power of attorney). This form names a legal agent who will make your medical decisions if you are unable to do so. The form is signed by the patient. A copy (not the original) should be with the patient when they enter the hospital.
  • Living will. This document tells the medical power of attorney designee what to do if you become incapacitated. This form needs to be completed and signed before hospitalization.
  • DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) form. This confirms that you do not want to have heart function or breathing restarted. These forms must be obtained and signed by a physician.



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