The healthcare system is hard to navigate for everyone. When seniors are facing a health scare, they don’t need to do it alone. If you’re a senior in need of medical treatment, a patient advocate can help. Patient advocates can help navigate issues of health literacy and misdiagnosis, and help patients understand complex medical treatments and terminology.

Patient Advocates Have a Proven Rate of Success

Health advocates act on the behalf of patients, working with doctors and medical professionals to ensure that they receive the best possible care. Many seniors are curious about health advocates, but they may have doubts. Is adding another person to their healthcare team really worth it?

Studies suggest that health advocates really do help patients receive medical treatment. In one 2014 study, researchers examined the impact of health navigators on low-income, high-risk patients. The study found that patients given a health navigator are twice as likely to undergo a cancer-screening test than patients without one. For seniors who feel that they’re not getting the medical treatment they need to get well, health advocates can be invaluable. This is especially true for patients with limited health literacy.

Patient Advocates Help Boost Health Literacy

Limited health literacy can affect people of all ages, from 20-somethings confused about how insurance works to seniors dealing with multiple health conditions. When medical professionals refer to “health literacy,” they’re talking about the skills needed to process important health information. When people have limited health literacy, it can be caused by many factors. Cultural barriers, language barriers, economic disadvantages, and cognitive decline are all common causes. It can also be caused by the sheer complexity of the healthcare system; navigating the ins and outs of insurance and medical bills is difficult regardless of age.

When seniors have limited health literacy, patient advocates can be a great help. This is especially true in situations involving misdiagnosis. Many seniors face complex health problems, and these problems are not always easy to diagnose. If you’re a senior dissatisfied with your current treatment plan, you may benefit from a second opinion. With the assistance of a patient advocate, senior patients no longer have to worry about health literacy; they can get the treatment they need without having to navigate the complex healthcare system on their own.

Health Navigators Can Help You Get a Second Opinion

While doctors are experts in their fields, they aren’t infallible, and the first opinion isn’t always the right opinion. Take the case of Jonathan Fine, a patient advocate, and his friend, an 85-year old man who rarely complained about his health. When the man experienced leg pains, however, emergency room doctors initially assumed that he was suffering from hip inflammation or a muscle sprain. It was only after Fine insisted they do more tests that the doctors realized that he was suffering from abdominal bleeding. In such instances, patient advocacy helps seniors receive life-saving care when confronted with a misdiagnosis.

If you’re a senior who suspects you’ve been misdiagnosed, you may benefit from the services of a patient advocate. Advocates like Jonathan Fine step in when seniors aren’t receiving optimal treatment, and they provide the support seniors need in life-threatening situations.

Patient Advocates Can Translate Complex Medical Information

Misdiagnosis can be life threatening for any patient. Even when patients receive the right diagnosis, however, understanding the diagnosis and the medical treatment can be confusing. In these instances, health advocates act as medical interpreters, helping their clients understand their health condition and what their treatment entails.

This service proved invaluable for one Somali patient, who didn’t understand why his doctor was recommending a colonoscopy. He couldn’t read or write English, so normal methods of doctor/patient communication, like explanatory pamphlets, weren’t helpful. His patient advocate, however, was able to draw on Somali culture to explain the procedure and why it was necessary. By comparing the laxative drink prescribed by the doctor to a laxative drink common in Somalia, the patient was able to understand the procedure. The patient advocate also drew diagrams, which were more helpful to the patient than written pamphlets.

Health navigators don’t always have to bridge cultural gaps while translating medical information. Sometimes, patients simply need a little extra help processing their diagnosis, their appointment schedule, or their prescribed treatment methods. When senior patients have a health advocate at their side, they can get answers to questions they may not otherwise think to ask.

Patient advocates can also facilitate communication between multiple doctors. Many seniors have multiple healthcare specialists, from cardiologists to neurologists. In an ideal healthcare system, all of these doctors would share information, keeping each other up to date about their patient’s treatment and progress. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. Health navigators can make sure that doctors and patients are on the same page, and that each doctor is apprised of the patient’s latest health information.

If you’re a senior patient who feels anxious about your diagnosis, your ability to communicate with your doctors, or you struggle with health literacy, patient advocacy may be the answer.

Our Patient Advocate Office is ever just an email or phone call away: 703-222-1300 – we’re happy to help! A phone call is free and it could save a life or reduce a large hospital bill.

Free eBook: My Health Guide

Whether you’re going in for a routine checkup or need to keep track of medications: the following documents will help you prepare for your hospital visit, track medications, and keep on top of follow-ups.