Hospitals save lives, but they aren’t places you should venture into alone if you have a choice in the matter. Here are five reasons why you’re likely to have a better outcome if you have a friend or family member act as your advocate throughout your hospitalization.
1. An Extra Pair of Eyes Reduces Medical Errors
Did you know that preventable medical errors are the third-most common cause of death in the United States, with over 440,000 people dying from them every year? You can’t be expected to be on top of your game while you’re undergoing hospitalization, so having someone keep an eye on your treatment details is a primary safety measure.
2. An Advocate Can Express Your Wishes
Your advocate can let your providers know what you want and need if you are not able to communicate effectively. If you sign papers ahead of time to make your advocate a health care proxy or give them a medical power of attorney, that person is authorized to make decisions on your behalf if you are not capable of doing so. Your advocate does not have to be a family member; you can name anyone you choose for this role.
3. Balance Billing Problems May be Avoided
Unexpected medical bills (“balance billing”) can occur when one provider in a hospital is not part of your insurance plan’s provider network. This person could be a surgeon, a radiologist or a dietitian – and their services might be casually arranged without anyone paying attention to what your insurance covers. With your prior permission, your advocate can talk to the hospital billing office and to your insurance plan to find out if each professional who treats you is part of your provider network.
4. An Advocate Can Make Your Discharge Safer
When you’re released from the hospital, you are typically given multiple sets of instructions together with prescriptions to be filled and physical warning signs to watch for. You may not be at your most alert during this process, and your advocate can clarify exactly what type of at-home care and medical follow-up is required for your situation.
5. Your Advocate Provides Warmth and Reassurance
This is probably the very best thing your advocate does for you. In a hospital setting, you will interact with dozens of dedicated professionals, but you are not the most important person in their busy universe. Having an advocate present to tell you a joke or hold your hand during difficult moments is absolutely therapeutic.
HealthSherpa’s advocates can’t be at your bedside, but we’re always just a phone call away.