Before I started serving in National Health Corps, my expectation as a Patient Advocate for the Prescription Assistance Program (PAP) was quite transparent. My misconception was that I had a limited view that the only benefit of PAP was obtaining medication for patients that met the requirements. As I began to serve and assist my patients I discovered that PAP gave my patients the necessary tools to make better decisions to maintain a healthier lifestyle. My role as an advocate complemented other services provided in the health center that influenced my patients in the long run to make better decisions regarding their health.
The population I serve is primarily uninsured patients who can't afford the out-of-pocket costs of their medications. The majority of my patients have medical conditions such as asthma and diabetes that require specific medication to control their illnesses. I've listened to stories of my patients going without their medication because of other financial obligations that take priority over their medication's cost. They resign with the notion that since their medication is unattainable, then it's acceptable to place their health needs on the back burner. It doesn't take a medical professional to understand how detrimental it is for an asthmatic patient to go without his or her inhaler or a diabetic patient to skip days of taking their insulin in hopes that they could extend their medication.
Over time I've seen the same patients that struggled with getting medication make drastic changes in their lifestyle once their PAP application is approved. My patients have become more proactive in their health needs, going as far as seeing the nutrition counselor and making healthier eating decisions, or obtaining advice from the smoking cessation counselor to quit smoking. All of these newfound decisions were due to the burden that was lifted when the patients received their medication through PAP and the continued services I provided by maintaining their refills and ensuring they fulfill the requirements to maintain their enrollment in the program.
My role also includes working with other professionals in the pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) team to obtain Truvada, an HIV antiviral medication, for uninsured HIV negative patients.Truvada has been known to reduce the risk of a patient contracting HIV when they adhere to a daily regime. A bottle of Truvada without insurance could cost a patient over $1,000. Advocating for my patients has gone far beyond applying for medication. It's giving my patients the chance to live a healthier lifestyle by advocating for their needs for medication that they normally would have difficulties obtaining. It's alleviating their stresses of going without their medication and empowering them to make better decisions that complement their consistent medication regime. It’s being that catalyst for change.
This blog post was written by NHC Philadelphia member Natasha Simon.
Natasha serves as a Patient Advocate at Philadelphia Department of Public Health Ambulatory Health Services - Strawberry Mansion Health Center.