Patient advocates play important roles in highlighting and addressing health care issues. Advocates work at hospitals and clinics on behalf of medical clients. An advocate might interact with patients by handling their insurance claims or scheduling home visits. Nurses also serve as patient advocates by describing health care options, procedures, and risks.
Define the type of patient advocate business that you want to establish. For instance, you could create a home health advocacy business that helps patients recover at home after hospitalization. Another route involves developing a customer service business that processes insurance claims and informs providers about restrictions and deductibles.
Analyze federal, state, and local regulations. You should register your business (as a corporation or a limited liability company) and request an IRS tax identification number. Some states regulate the health care industry and issue licenses to patient advocates.
Prepare a business plan that includes revenue and expense (marketing, supplies, taxes, and office rent) projections. Evaluate your competition and describe how you will differentiate your business. For instance, you might offer bilingual advocates who speak French, Spanish, Arabic, or Chinese. Alternatively, you could concentrate on patients with terminal illnesses.
Hire qualified staff and purchase professional insurance. If you want patient advocates who are registered nurses, approach local nursing schools and participate in career services events. Consider starting an internship program in which you train student advocates and, ideally, offer jobs.
Promote your business, such as through friends, family members, and former colleagues. You might approach physicians in private practice or local clinics, such as rehabilitative centers. Advertise through medical or health care associations like the Florida Medical Association (fmaonline.org).
Tips & Warnings
- Review customer service practice regularly, since patient advocates deal with sensitive matters. Organize a list of community resources, such as nonprofits that provide financial assistance or food.
- Avoid violating federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) rules, especially concerning patient confidentiality.
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