Doctor’s Appointment? Don’t Go It Alone!

ABC News has a nice article suggesting that if you are heading to the doctor’s office that you might want to persuade a friend to tag along. As I blogged last week, new research suggests that older adults who bring companions to medical visits are more satisfied with their medical care. 

The Associated Press has a related story about companies providing professional companions in an article entitled: Serving as advocate for patients is good business

My Take?

I’ve always recommended people bring a loved one or trusted friend to their office visits. 

Doctors find that companions can help with communication by jotting down the doctor’s comments and instructions, share information about the patient’s medical condition with the doctor, ask questions, and help remember and explain the doctor’s instructions.

Companions can help reduce medical errors, assist with transportation, provide company and moral support, help schedule appointments, and, when needed, provide physical assistance.

The AP reports that Health Advocate is one of a growing number of U.S. companies offering some form of advocacy services to medical consumers. 

Revolution Health — the Web-based medical consumer services company overseen by AOL co-founder Steve Case — has been considering getting into the same business.

Currently, the health advocacy business is an industry with about $50 million to $75 million in annual revenue but only about a half-dozen companies of any significant size, said Richard Rakowski of Intersection LLC, a Connecticut-based investment and development firm that has researched the field.

More than ever, people need help negotiating the medical system, said Jessica Greene, a University of Oregon health policy analyst. “We’re asking consumers to make more complicated decisions, but the numeracy and health literacy skills of many consumers are not at the level needed to handle this new responsibility,” Greene said.

Though some consumers are savvy enough to beat a billing overcharge or probe doctors’ litigation histories, they don’t have the time for such labors, experts said.

Health Advocate in May began to sell its services straight to individuals, as a $365-a-year service.

According to the AP, not every health advocacy group is a for-profit business.

The Patient Advocate Foundation provides free help to people with chronic, debilitating and life-threatening conditions. Founded in 1996, the Virginia-based organization has 113 employees and an annual budget of about $8.5 million. It handled nearly 45,000 cases in 2007 — most of them cancer patients.

The organization’s founders initially expected many clients to be uninsured. As it turns out, about 80% have at least some health insurance but are dealing with pre-approval authorizations, medical debt from incomplete coverage or other problems, said Nancy Davenport-Ennis, the group’s chief executive and co-founder.

 

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