Patient Advocacy: How We Work to Improve the Patient Experience

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By Lucy Richardson, MD Anderson Staff Writer

Yes, it happens.

Chris HernandezBut when MD Anderson patients have a complaint, need assistance or encounter a problem with scheduling, there's someone on their side -- a patient advocate in the Department of Patient Advocacy and Guest Relations.

On their first visit to the hospital, MD Anderson patients are assigned a patient advocate in their disease center. This person will be available to them throughout their care.

"MD Anderson is such a large place. Patients need to know they have a person to call if they have concerns or questions. And that their confidentiality will be honored," says Barbara Bowman, vice president for patient services.

Advocates are available all day, every day. Whether it's about troubling side effects or customer service.

"We're here to help make any situation better," says Chris Hernandez, director of the department. "We want patients to bring issues to us. We're here to help. We'll do everything we can, as quickly as possible, to make a patient's experience a positive one."

Skillful communicators
Patient advocates are not medical practitioners.

"It's important that they're not," says Joan Armin, former associate director in the department. "We hire passionate, dedicated, compassionate people. They don't answer medical questions, but they do know everyone in the clinic. If a patient has a problem or a question, the advocate knows exactly who to turn to for an answer or solution."

Patient advocates are highly trained, skilled professionals. They are mediators, connectors, information sources, educators and, most important, listeners. They listen to patients no matter how long it takes.

"When we meet with patients or family members, we acknowledge the difficulty they are experiencing. Even though we didn't witness the problem and don't know exactly what happened, from this point on we are determined to turn their experience around," Hernandez says.

Patient Advocacy
Location: Main Building, 1st floor, near elevator A, Room R1.1532
Phone: 713-792-7776


Is this a new service? I wish I had had an advocate when I was there 5years ago. I was there by myself, stayed at Rotary House and was desparately ill after first chenotherapy treatment . Managed to get across the sky bridge to ER on my own but have never felt so alone.
Of course it happened in the middle of the night!

so gladothers will have someone to reach out to!

I was at MD Anderson with my sister in the early 90's and we met her patient advocate the day we arrived. Her advocate not only took care of all of my sister's needs, concerns and questions and my own as her donor, both for bone marrow and platelets; she also took care of my sister's husband. Not only did she advise us on everything about her disease, treatments and MD Anderson, but also about Houston. She got us an apartment on their campus, gave us the bus schedule and explained all the great places along the route to meet our needs. Any time we had any kind of questions and practically about any thing. She either knew the answer or got one for us. This was an amazing service that I had never experienced before, nor again since...and I was then and still work in some hospital.

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