Upon becoming a Patient Advocate with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, I understood that I would be helping uninsured patients apply for and receive medication at lower or no cost. However, I did not realize that a patient advocate means much more to most patients.
On a Monday morning, I called my patient and explained to her that the Prescription Assistance Program could help her with her asthma medication. “So, you’re saying I can get my inhaler for free?” I assured her she could. “Wait, the expensive medication that helps me breathe better – I can get that for free?!” Once again, I assured her that I could help. The sound of relief in her voice made me smile.
A couple days later, this same patient walked into my office. As we were filling out the application together, she revealed how she has not had medical insurance for years and how her asthma has gotten worse. She was frequenting the ER more and more as her inhalers were difficult to afford. A couple weeks later, I enthusiastically notified her that her medication has arrived. As she came to pick up her inhalers that same day, I realized the true meaning of an advocate.
A patient advocate is someone that a patient can trust and rely upon. An advocate can be the difference between going to the ER and staying healthy. Seeing my patient smile, receiving her hugs, and hearing about her improved quality of life is the best reward for being a patient advocate.