Patient Advocate Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

A Patient Advocate, or Healthcare Patient Advocate, is responsible for assisting patients with a variety of illnesses or injuries in applying for insurance and determining treatment needs. Their duties include looking over insurance claims and helping patients compile the right documents, communicating with health care professionals in the local area to determine the right place for patients to receive care and contacting insurance companies to discuss alternative options after denying a patient’s claim.

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Patient Advocate duties and responsibilities

The duties and responsibilities of a Patient Advocate involve serving as a liaison between patients and health professionals. There are varied duties and responsibilities depending on the type of advocate and what the patient needs, including:

  • Clarifying options to patients on their choice for hospitals, doctors and treatments
  • Getting information for patients and asking specific questions
  • Carrying out patient requests
  • Writing down information and answers to questions for patients
  • Accompanying patients to tests, procedures and appointments
  • Keeping track of medications
  • Solving conflicts and crisis situations with health care professionals and family members
  • Making sure patients’ rights are met
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Patient Advocate Job Description Examples

What does a Patient Advocate do?

Patient Advocates typically work for health care facilities like hospitals or rehabilitation facilities, but they also work for insurance companies, government agencies or non-profit organizations. They work closely with patients and healthcare professionals to ensure patients receive the right care and billing options. Their job is to visit patients at healthcare facilities or their homes to determine their needs and to help them learn more about insurance policies. They may also be responsible for ensuring patients pay their medical bills on time.

Patient Advocate skills and qualifications

A successful Patient Advocate will have these skills: 

  • Listening skills to understand what the patients’ needs are and whether they have any problems or concerns
  • Problem-solving skills to solve possible patient problems with health care professionals and insurance companies
  • Decision-making skills so they can make choices on behalf of the patient
  • Communication skills to work with patients, family members and health care professionals for a variety of situations
  • Compassionate attitude in order to give emotional support and help the patients’ quality of life 

Patient Advocate salary expectations

A Patient Advocate makes an average of $15.50 per hour. Pay rate may depend on level of experience, education and the geographical location.

Patient Advocate education and training requirements

Usually, a Patient Advocate has an associate or bachelor’s degree in social services, psychology, nursing, communications or similar field. Health care administration or management are two other specialized fields of study. Often, Patient Advocates decide to specialize and receive a master’s degree. There are also certification programs in health advocacy to gain a deep understanding of the options in hospital, nursing and home settings.

Patient Advocate experience requirements

Many Patient Advocates are Registered Nurses or have worked in the health care industry in a different capacity. Some start in clinical positions or work as Social Workers before becoming an independent Patient Advocate. If they don’t have previous experience in health care, Patient Advocates can complete internships with nonprofits or medical facilities to learn more about the healthcare system.

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Frequently asked questions about Patient Advocates

 

What is the difference between a Patient Advocate and a Geriatric Care Manager?

The difference between a Patient Advocate and a  Geriatric Care Manager lies in their job focus areas and the types of people they help. For example, Patient Advocates can have a variety of patients ranging in age and health conditions. In contrast, Geriatric Care Managers typically specialize in patient care for elderly patients. Further, Patient Advocates focus on helping patients understand their insurance eligibility and available healthcare providers. 

In contrast, Geriatric Care Managers help elderly patients and their families adjust to changing treatment needs. They organize proper living accommodations, help families understand how to take care of their elderly loved ones and develop care plans for patients.

 

What are the daily duties of a Patient Advocate?

On a typical day, a Patient Advocate starts by reviewing their appointment schedule. They contact patients or their loved ones to confirm appointment times and make adjustments to their schedule based on their patients’ needs. Throughout the day, they visit patients within clinical facilities or at their homes to discuss their current treatment plans and relative payments. During these meetings, Patient Advocates learn more about their patients’ economic status, current healthcare providers and current insurance providers. 

During downtime in their office, Patient Advocates contact local doctors, research insurance companies with coverage options that align with their patient’s qualifications and help patients apply for insurance coverage.

 

What qualities make a good Patient Advocate?

A good Patient Advocate is someone passionate about helping others. They have excellent interpersonal communication, enabling them to adjust the way they communicate with patients, healthcare professionals and insurance companies. Further, a good Patient Advocate has previous experience working in healthcare as a nurse or a related role. A good Patient Advocate also stays up-to-date on local, state and national health insurance policies and payment options to best suit their patients.

 

Who does a Patient Advocate report to?

A Patient Advocate reports to different professionals depending on their place of employment. For example, Patient Advocates working for a hospital typically report to the Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) or the Director of Nursing. In contrast, a Patient Advocate working for a smaller facility may report to the Clinical Director or Facility Director. When Patient Advocates work for insurance companies, they usually report to a Patient Advocate Manager or Medical Eligibility Manager.

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