For episode 13 of our podcast, we were joined by three of our own amazing patient advocates, Alejandra Vineski, Justine Hearn, and Patrick Gaul to discuss what patient advocacy is and how it makes a difference in patients’ lives.
In this conversation, they share impactful stories from patients they’ve supported and cover topics like bill negotiation, healthcare navigation, and the impact of price transparency on the patient experience.
You can listen to the whole episode here or on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever else you listen to podcasts. If you’re short on time, we’ve included a few highlights from our conversation below.
Steven: I know every day is different, but what is a typical day like in the life of a patient advocate?
Justine: A typical day involves a lot of interaction between patients and providers. So, essentially our job is to call a provider and negotiate, and that absolutely varies depending on the provider and their policies and what the patient's financial situation is. After that conversation, it's always followed up with the patient updates. So you're always in constant communication with someone, whether you're negotiating with the provider or you're connecting with the patients to get a feel for how they would like to best proceed with their case. And a lot of times it turns into a little bit of a vent session on the patient's end, just because a lot of times they are in a crucial or financially catastrophic situation. And they just need someone to talk about it. A lot of times we're that listening ear for them. We get that a lot in our day-to-day.
Steven: Yeah, it's such a frustrating situation. Everyone's a patient, you know, all of us have been patients or our family members have been at some point in time, so we all know how frustrating it is. And I certainly can see how it would be helpful to have someone to walk with you through that process. How does it feel to help someone through what in many cases may be the most challenging time in their lives?
Justine: I think it's such a privilege to be in our role. It's absolutely challenging, there's pressure behind it. You really are the lifeline for this individual who is in this crazy financial situation because of a medical event that, you know, no one ever plans for. It’s such a privilege to be that guiding light in this darkness. It's so hard to navigate through something that you could never prepare for. And it's so amazing to be that person to, you know, provide them some kind of direction, some kind of guideline to get through it.
Patrick: One of the greatest parts is being able to help somebody through the tough times. They've gone through something pretty traumatic usually, or the worst part of it was the trauma of the bills coming through. Several times they'll get bills from different locations: labs, pathology, the surgery, or procedure itself. Helping them navigate through that process because it is confusing, it is frustrating, and it's something a lot of people do recognize as a problem. And so helping walk them through that process start to finish is very rewarding, especially when you can really help make an impact.
Alejandra: There've been many cases where patients come to me and they don't understand what's going on, some cases where the patients are from another country and they're not really familiar with how the system works in the United States. I had a case where the patient lost her father recently when he was visiting from another country, so she was devastated. She reached out to us with seven or eight bills and they were all very high. She was confused. She was scared. She didn't know what to do. We were able to help her out and 90% of these bills were completely resolved to a hundred percent. She didn’t have that burden anymore. She was extremely grateful and still grieving, but I was so happy to help somebody that was going through so much pain and was very confused about the way these worked.
The patient advocates had great insights, stories, and advice to give, so if you want to hear it all make sure to listen to the full podcast here!
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