The ad­vo­cacy story

Modern Healthcare - - Opinion -

Re­gard­ing “Em­pow­er­ing the pa­tient,” (Jan. 31, p. 32): I am a long-time mem­ber of the So­ci­ety for Health­care Con­sumer Ad­vo­cacy, which is af­fil­i­ated with the Amer­i­can Hos­pi­tal As­so­ci­a­tion, and I want to cor­rect a few mis­per­cep­tions that may have re­sulted from your ar­ti­cle.

Our mem­ber­ship pri­mar­ily con­sists of hos­pi­tal-based pa­tient ad­vo­cates. How­ever, it is not true that we mostly deal with in­pa­tients. Many hos­pi­tals have ad­vo­cates as­signed full time to emer­gency rooms and to out­pa­tient clin­ics.

Where not so as­signed, most of our mem­bers cover any pa­tient seen any­where in the hos­pi­tal’s sys­tem, and are some­times even drawn into help­ing pa­tients seen by com­mu­nity doc­tors in a pri­vate of­fice.

Joanna Smith men­tioned the in­her­ent con­flict-of-in­ter­est such hos­pi­tal-based ad­vo­cates might have in deal­ing with pa­tients hav­ing trou­ble with the very hos­pi­tal pay­ing the ad­vo­cate’s salary. How­ever, in our code of ethics we are very clear that our pri­mary al­le­giance is to our pa­tients, and this is of­ten dis­cussed in our ed­u­ca­tion ses­sions. I can­not re­mem­ber a sin­gle in­stance of a sit­u­a­tion where such a choice was nec­es­sary. The hos­pi­tal, af­ter all, is pay­ing the ad­vo­cate’s salary be­cause they be­lieve in the idea of as­sur­ing pa­tients’ rights and needs are met and rec­og­nize that in a com­plex or­ga­ni­za­tion there is some­times a need for a re­source that has no other role than to as­sure this hap­pens.

Pri­vate ad­vo­cates ap­par­ently do some things not done by a typ­i­cal hos­pi­tal-based ad­vo­cate, such as rec­om­mend­ing doc­tors and a course of treat­ment to pa­tients di­ag­nosed with se­ri­ous con­di­tions. We do, how­ever, help pa­tients sort through the roles of dif­fer­ent spe­cial­ists and ex­plain what op­tions pa­tients have in mak­ing choices.

As your ar­ti­cle points out, most peo­ple can­not af­ford such help. It seems very un­fair that only those who can af­ford it should have ac­cess to help nav­i­gat­ing the sys­tem. It isn’t nec­es­sary to pay for this help when a hos­pi­tal­based pa­tient ad­vo­cate ex­ists. Anita B. Wood­ward Pres­i­dent A. Wood­ward & As­so­ciates Green Val­ley, Ariz.

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