Correction: We regret that there was an error in the phone number for Integrity Healthcare Consultants in our print verion. The correct phone number is at 1-888-299-0017 or locally at 647-776-3266.
You’ve just had a baby and you both need medical care afterward, but you’re so stressed and exhausted that you can barely remember the day of the week, let alone what the doctors and nurses have told you. Or your elderly father has chronic kidney problems, and between all the doctors’ appointments he has, the many drugs he is on, and concerns about the future of his medical care, you are overwhelmed and confused.
These scenarios are different, but the same solution could work for both of them: hiring a health-care navigator and advocate. We spoke with Jana Bartley, a registered nurse and the founder and CEO of Integrity HealthcareConsultants, about being a health-care advocate.
What is a health-care navigator and patient advocate?
A health-care navigator and advocate has knowledge of the health-care system as a whole. She is able to see the bigger picture in health care so she can better understand it, work within it and respond to challenges as they occur.
An independent navigator and advocate ensures that his client is getting effective and efficient care from our health-care system in a timely manner, with the professional guidance to help him make informed decisions.
Who is a health advocate?
Anyone can act as an advocate for themselves or someone else. But a trained health-care advocate such as a nurse has in-depth understanding of the health-care system. A nurse can also educate the client on his health status and help him make informed choices about treatments.
How does an independent health advocate help a client?
Each client has an individualized action plan based on their specific health status, needs and personal goals.
We take a complete and thorough health history so we can understand the client’s full medical picture. We then discuss goals, and I think that this is the most important part of the process because this is when we discuss what the patient wants. Not the family, not the doctor, but the patient. We then create an action plan to achieve our short-term goals and long-term goals. The key is lots of communication and understanding between the client and consultant.
When or why should someone hire a health advocate?
There are many people out there who receive a diagnosis and they are scared, confused, frustrated and perhaps alone. Doctors are busy and unfortunately don’t have unlimited time to talk to their patients, discuss treatment options and answer many questions.
Knowing all of your options and making the right choices for you is invaluable. Patient empowerment is so important on many different levels, but most significantly when it comes to healing and recovery.
Often we get calls from clients or family members who need to be accompanied to appointments. This is common with an elderly parent who has many medical appointments and the children of the parent all have full-time jobs. We also work with families who struggle to coordinate medical treatment from other provinces or countries. We have a teleconference meeting with the family and create a medical plan that is what the patient or substitute decision maker has agreed to. We follow through with the plan and update the family as needed.
At Integrity Healthcare, we want our clients to focus on recovery; we deal with the steps of their treatment plans.
What will a private independent health navigator or patient advocate charge for his or her services?
No two advocates charge in exactly the same way. The cost will depend on the advocacy services, the client’s location, the advocate’s experience and other factors.
Health insurance does not ordinarily cover the cost of patient navigation and advocacy fees, although some employers will assist with payment.
Do clients have a responsibility when it comes to their own health?
Absolutely! Nurses and doctors rely on the information that they receive from patients to help them with a plan of care or diagnosis. We encourage our clients to complete a personal health record (PHR) so they have an accurate copy of their health information. A PHR is highly recommended for individuals who have chronic illnesses or have just been diagnosed with an illness that will require visits to specialists and likely require the client to have multiple tests or procedures. Integrity Healthcare navigators and advocates can help.
Why did you become a health navigator and advocate?
I have been a nurse for more than 20 years and have practised advocacy throughout my career. After working as a patient-relations consultant and a legal nurse consultant, it was obvious to me that, although our health-care system has the ability and resources to provide care and services to patients, many slipped through the cracks. Often, patients weren’t even aware that they weren’t getting the care that they required.
What do you find most rewarding about being a health advocate?
Quite simply, making a positive difference in someone’s life. It is difficult to see people struggle, especially when they should be using their energy to get better. Knowing that our services offer them peace of mind is rewarding.
For more information, contact Jana Bartley, principle consultant, Integrity Healthcare Consultants, at 1-888-299-0017 or visit www.integrityhealthcare.ca.