Private Health Care Advocacy Grows as Career
The "new and growing field" of private health care advocacy helps patients and their families "cut through the health care bureaucracy to find the help they need," the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Most health care advocates who offer direct patient services work alone or in small businesses, although some large companies have entered the field. In addition, some health care advocates work for health insurers or hospitals or contract with employers as an employee benefit.
According to the Chronicle, many health care advocates have some background in the field, but, because the "business of health advocacy is unregulated," some advocates "might have no training other than helping a family member through a difficult illness."
Sarah Lawrence College in New York in 1980 began to offer a master's degree program in health care advocacy, and no other universities offer similar programs. Some universities offer credentialing programs in health care advocacy, although requirements vary. In addition, no states issue official licenses for health care advocates.
Joanna Smith, founder of the patient advocacy group Healthcare Liaison and a former hospital discharge planner, said, "People are clearly overwhelmed by health care and are seeking people to help them out with it." Smith, who seeks to establish professional standards and an accreditation program for health care advocates, said, "From a consumer-protection standpoint, there just are not standards. So anyone literally can hang up a shingle and say 'I'm a health care advocate'" (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/18).