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posted: April 30, 2009

Timely Tips

Timely Tip: Choosing the Right Health Care Advocate

At times, it can be virtually impossible to filter through the flood of information – often conflicting – regarding our loved one’s medical care. Sometimes a professional working on your behalf is the answer. Here’s a checklist of various experts you may tap to play a key role in helping sort through Mom’s medical care:

  • Geriatric Specialist: A geriatrician is a physician with an additional focus on meeting the medical needs of the elderly. The US Administration on Aging offers an Eldercare Locator website for finding local resources.
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist: The CNS is a master’s-prepared advanced practice RN who works closely with patients and families. To get a CNS on your case, speak to the nurse manager or nursing director for the unit or facility.
  • “Concierge” Doctor: An extended-care warranty of sorts: by signing up for a concierge or personalized medicine practice, you secure directional services for the day when your condition becomes highly complicated.
  • Insurer-Based Case Manager: Insurer-based case management is triggered by a physician referral or hospital, acute care or nursing home discharge. A specific diagnosis on a claim can also alert health plans that a case manager might be needed.
  • Internist/Family Physician: For complex cases involving multiple specialists, ask your primary care provider for a sit-down appointment, which may lead to a multidisciplinary meeting of the minds. Depending on the insurer, the cost of such an appointment may be covered.
  • Patient-Centered Medical Home: Medical homes strive to make patients “active partners in their care.” See the Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative website.
  • Unaffiliated Case Manager: You can ask for a referral from your health care provider. Local departments of aging and disabilities or health and social services agencies may offer – or refer you to – case management services.

You can read the full story on finding effective health care advocates in Adrift is a Sea of Specialist: Sorting Out Medical Opinion Overload, a feature article in the April 2009 edition of Caregiver’s Home Companion.

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