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Health Advocates

History

The world of health care has grown increasingly complex. New scientific discoveries allow doctors to better understand diseases and technology advancements that lead to new and better ways to treat patients. At the same time, government regulations, insurance company policies, hospital rules, and the legal field have all combined to make getting the appropriate health care a complicated process. It can sometimes seem as if the interests of patients get lost in the shuffle. It can be difficult for even the most informed patients to make sure they are getting the most beneficial treatment. This situation has led to the need for someone to work on behalf of patients, promoting their interests everywhere from the doctor's office to the Senate floor.

Although advocates for patients have existed for many years (some cite Florence Nightingale as the first advocate), the recognized profession of health advocate did not really begin to develop until the late 20th century. One step in this development was the acknowledgement by professionals that patients had rights and deserved quality treatment. An example of this occurred in 1973 when the American Hospital Association, a national organization representing hospitals, health care networks, and patients, adopted its first version of a Patient's Bill of Rights. Among other things, the bill recognizes that patients have the right to respectful care, the right to receive understandable information about their treatment, and the right to make their own decisions. Although the profession of health advocates was fairly small in the 1970s, its popularity has increased steadily since then, and health advocates have become important members of the health care community.

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