Healthcare science degree, first step to becoming a patient advocate
Say the words ‘healthcare career’ and chances are the first two thoughts that pop into your head are ‘doctor’ or ‘nurse.’ While those are obviously important jobs, there are a lot of behind the scenes careers that play an essential role in keeping Americans healthy. A degree in healthcare science can open doors to a variety of healthcare jobs, most of which are not as well known as nurses and doctors.
This blog will review one of those careers; the role of a patient advocate.
Often a family member plays the role of a patient advocate by asking questions, taking notes and keeping track of important information when a family member has a doctor appointment or hospital stay. But those living with chronic conditions or who see multiple specialists are increasingly hiring a professional to assume this role.
Elisabeth Russell, president and founder of a company that advocates for patients called, Patient Navigator, explains the need for patient advocates this way, “It’s draining enough to be sick, let alone having to deal with the health care delivery system and all of its vagaries and complications.”
Whether they are called medical advocates, patient advocates, patient navigators or health care advocates, the job involves working on behalf of the patient to enhance their care. This can involve:
- Keeping track of appointments and medications
- Communicating between patients and physicians
- Researching treatment options
- Defining health care goals
- Setting agendas for doctor visits
Having a patient advocate coordinate all aspects of a person’s healthcare needs is particularly beneficial for the elderly.
This type of coordination could help the patient and reduce the demand on the healthcare system. As The American Geriatrics Society puts it, “Care coordination could improve health outcomes for many of these beneficiaries and also provide long-term savings to the Medicare program through reducing hospitalizations and eliminating duplicative services.”
Healthcare is a vast and growing industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the healthcare and social assistance sector is projected to grow at an annual rate of 2.6 percent, adding 5 million jobs between 2012 and 2022. This accounts for nearly one-third of the total projected increase in the number of jobs. The growth is attributed in part to the demand for healthcare workers to address the needs of an aging American population.
With a healthcare science degree, a person can offer a variety of services to improve the healthcare outcomes for patients.