Every dentist knows there are certain types of patients who tend to have trouble managing their oral healthcare. The largest group is aging seniors. As the aging population in America continues to grow, the term “senior orphans” has come to describe elderly patients without family.

To meet this growing need, a segment of the healthcare population is growing as well. Private patient advocates exist to help patients navigate an increasingly complicated (and ever-changing) healthcare system by providing the extra support they need. But they also offer many benefits to dentists, too.

What is a Private Patient Advocate?

In terms of actual credentials, patient advocates hold graduate certificates from one of about 20 university programs. A small but growing number also hold national certification from the Patient Advocate Certification Board, evidenced by the Board Certified Patient Advocate (BCPA) credential.

Many experienced patient advocates are also registered nurses, often called RN patient advocates. As a dentist, if you haven’t already worked with one, you likely will in the coming years.

Once an individual or a family hires a private patient advocate, this person can perform a wide range of tasks on their behalf including:

Acting as a liaison between patient and dentist

Realistically, there are many days you only have limited time to spend with each patient. But, some patients may need much more than that to thoroughly understand their dental condition and treatment plan.

Often, they are afraid of dental work. An RN patient advocate can provide a detailed explanation to the patient, answering questions, explaining terms and making sure your patient fully understands what to expect.

Patient advocates can save dentists time while facilitating better two-way communication.

Providing follow-up care at home

RN patient advocates can interact with patients where you can’t — in their homes or community setting. They can make sure a patient is following your orders while monitoring medications, diet and pain. One of the advantages of RN patient advocates is that, when visiting a patient at home, they can often spot early signs of trouble before a dental health issue becomes an emergent situation.

Be proactive about patient advocacy

Because patient advocates are paid solely by patients or their families, it doesn’t cost dentists anything to work with one. Additionally, a good patient advocate will save you time and frustration, while helping to ensure your patients get the care they deserve. In short, they help keep the patient at the center of the healthcare system and that benefits everyone.

You can visit the Alliance of Professional Health Care Advocates at aphadvocates.org to find an RN patient advocate in your area. Because, according to the American Medical Association, “Everyone today needs a patient advocate.”