This is an introduction to medical and patient advocacy.
First there are questions and answers that can help you under-
stand what patient advocacy is (and is not). If you want to learn
more about the skills that enable you to act as a patient advocate
for yourself or a loved one, there is detailed information in
several parts of this website, including Food for Smart Patients
and Food for the Mind.

The second part of this discussion on advocacy is a list of the
services I offer, including public speaking, teaching workshops
on patient advocacy, writing/consulting, and working with

What is medical/patient advocacy and why
is it important?

If we become involved with the legal system, we know lawyers can
advocate, or speak, for us. The French word for lawyer is Avocat.

What if we develop an illness or injury? There is no comparable person
to call. The system tends to move you from one provider to another.
Each may know their area well, but there is no guarantee they will talk
with each other or with you. Most excellent primary care physicians
cannot ensure the system gets you the care you need, when you need it,
from people who will work with you to establish goals and monitor
how well they are achieved.

Learn advocacy skills and represent yourself. You can organize your
thoughts, record symptoms and other useful information in a clear,
permanent form, speak and write effectively, and form long-standing
relationships with doctors and other healthcare providers who will be
your team as long as you need one. You can learn the details of your
insurance system to make it works for you.

The same skills can be applied to advocate for your children, even your
pets. You can help other adults, but your position is different: You are
not the patient. It is not your body and you are not the decision-maker.
However, you can lighten the burden the patient carries and help
safeguard their interests.

I have seen advocacy skills save lives and prevent unneeded procedures
and complications from treatments.  Sadly, I learned my first advocacy
skills after I proved a poor patient, passive and accepting everything the
doctor said even when I knew he was wrong. And I was a doctor. I lost
five years after my head injury before I got angry enough to insist on a
second opinion; then I was diagnosed correctly and began effective

If you have any questions,
please feel free to write:
Our e-mail address is
See the Talk to Us page
for other ways to send us
feedback or get updates on
the site and the growth of
the Healing Woman

Services offered by
Elizabeth Coolidge-Stolz

Please write regarding public
speaking, workshops, writing/
consulting, or another service
that might be useful so we
can work out details of what
you need. Patient advocacy
work with individuals:
USD65/hour after initial
free consultation.
Contact us with any question
at HW@healingwoman.net

Is there a difference between medical advocacy
and patient advocacy?

When I talk about medical advocacy, it is the same as patient advocacy:
We are talking about skills used to get the best possible medical care
for an individual patient.

If you read about medical care (especially care in the U.S., which does
not have a centralized healthcare system), you will see the term
medical advocacy used in different ways, often a way that involves
advocating for large groups of people.  It is worthwhile pointing out
how many forms of medical advocacy exist; together, they represent
the efforts of many people to improve healthcare for individuals,
people with a specific condition, and for a country as a whole. 

Many non-profit organization websites have advocacy sections
regarding media attention and lobbying of officials or other decision-
makers regarding funding.

In the U.S., discussions often involve rights and protections that exist
(or should exist) for healthcare consumers, as well as a patient’s
responsibilities to provide honest, complete information and ask
questions until they understand enough to make informed decisions.

In the U.S., some non-profit and for-profit organizations act as
advocates with private insurance companies to make sure as much care
as possible is covered by insurance funds.

All of these aspects of medical advocacy have value. However, I will
use the term patient advocacy in Food for the Smart Patient because
the emphasis is on building skills to get better healthcare for one
patient at a time.

How can patient advocacy help me?

It’s simple. Smart patients get better care. Medical knowledge does not
necessarily make you a smart patient. I had an MD degree and I was
pitifully ineffective in helping myself when I had a head injury.
Advocacy training helps you learn how to listen to your body and
record what it tells you. The same skills help you talk with doctors so
you work from the same background and have the same expectations.

Advocacy skills help you stay on track with your healthcare providers
and your medical care system (insurance company, clinic, etc.) so you
can see whether you are achieving the goals you set. Advocacy can
prevent problems and help you respond effectively if you do run into
problems with a provider, hospital, or insurer.

Learning about your healthcare system can help you select the drugs
most likely to help you at minimum cost, obtain in-home assistance
if it is no longer appropriate to travel for physical therapy or other
treatments, and help you build an overall healthcare plan that
optimizes your medical quality of life and minimizes the negative
impact of medical care on all of the other parts of your life.

Copyright © 2010-2013 HealingWoman, Inc. All rights reserved • Legal Information