I have been thinking recently about how the role of patient advocate evolved. A reason we all know is the complexity of the healthcare system with the many layers to shift through. There is also the need for an advocate to clear the path to get sooner appointments, second opinions, research medical options, provide insurance analysis, bill negotiation and care coordination. All important is the support needed when all seems too difficult.
Today, I realized what is truly broken in the system and why an advocate’s role has evolved. The advocate and the empowered patient have evolved because nobody has our back. You have to vigilant about all aspects of your care. Any new medications, diagnosis, results, procedures or surgeries, must be questioned because in the end the medical profession and ancillary services are beyond overwhelmed, exhausted and litigious to care. Don’t get me wrong, there is not general insensitivity but rather a profound change in the culture of our relationships that a medical professional feels necessary to be a successful practitioner. Where does this leave the consumer?
I had the unpleasant experience of my doctor not writing a prescription correctly, one I had been taking for at least a year. I never saw the prescription because it was sent via eprescriptions to my local pharmacy. She had written the wrong amount of pills by 15 days. When I called the pharmacy, I was told “the prescription reads for this amount. Maybe she changed the prescription.” I knew that wasn’t the case. I asked them didn’t they see what I had been taking and notice the error. I was told ” oh we don’t question the doctor’s amounts written. You can call the doctor.” I wasn’t going to let the pharmacist get off that easy because I know they could have called the doctor. I said as a consumer, it would be nice to know my pharmacy had my back. The words just tumbled out because I did want them to care about my prescription beyond just being a filling robot. When I was in family practice, I got pharmacy calls to verify prescriptions. All doctors/NPs do. The worst part is now I will have to pay an extra $50 co pay even though it wasn’t my fault. And no one cared to have my back.
Patient advocacy is about having my client’s back. I am like the hawk, perched on the huge elm tree, watching and waiting in anticipation of the need to swoop down in an instant. I am prepared to be vigilant to changing needs and momentary crisis with compassion and kindness. I know it is my job to be a caring, thoughtful and accurate navigator. The medical profession used to provide this service but it no longer does. It is time for them to acknowledge the change and accept the patient advocate as an asset to their clients care.
I was lucky I caught the error before I ran out of medication. What if it had been a misdiagnosis or wrong surgery or medication? Who would have my back?