Seven “Must-Ask-Questions” When Choosing a Patient Advocate

Part I in this blog series (see April 12 entry below) provided a better understanding of what a patient advocate or navigator does. Part II looks at the essential criteria and vital questions to ask when hiring an advocate.

Advocate training and experience – Currently, there are no certification or credentials required to be a patient advocate or navigator. Consequently, a great deal of disparity exists in the expertise of advocates. Clients looking to hire an advocate should not hesitate to inquire more fully. What exactly is the advocate’s health care background? Are they familiar with the medical jargon and competent navigating a complex health care system?

Do they have special certification? Are they a nurse? Physician? Certified social worker? Do they have specialized health insurance or billing experience?

What services do you require? Does the advocate provide these services? Advocates may specialize in certain aspects of care and not in others. For example, those with a health care background will likely provide medical interpretation and be equipped to provide assistance with complex diagnoses and treatments. Furthermore, they would be an asset as an accompaniment to medical appointments, treatments and as an inpatient liaison for clients and their family. Other advocates may focus on insurance benefits, medical billing and financial concerns and would be a more appropriate choice for clients with those needs.

Will the advocate provide a written care plan? This step is easily overlooked, but essential in providing accountability and insuring that service expectations are met. After consulting with a potential advocate, they should provide clients with a written care plan which details the issues to be addressed and formulates a fairly detailed plan as to how this will be achieved.

Does the advocate have time to handle my case? Even if the advocate seems a good fit and the care plan detailed and appropriate, be certain to ask up front if the advocate has time to provide the services in the time frame you deem acceptable.

Service fee schedule and payment options? How will the advocate be billing? by the hour? by the month? by encounter? Are clients billed after services are rendered or is a retainer required that will need to be replenished as funds are depleted? Can payment be in the form of cash, check, credit card? Are funds refundable if services are discontinued and under what circumstances?

Does the advocate have testimonials or former client comments for you to review? An experienced advocate will likely have testimonials/comments available for review on their website or brochure. If not, ask. Much can be learned about the advocate when reading from a former client’s perspective.

For additional information on how to interview and choose an advocate, visit the APHA website:

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