Personal Patient Advocates
Finding, Using and Becoming One


Help for In-Patients
Most hospitals have staff that serve as patient representatives, or advocates. If you know that you will be admitted to a hospital, you might call beforehand and ask for information about their patient advocate services. Whether before or after admission, however, patients should feel free to ask about and meet the hospital’s patient rep. Sometimes trained ombudsmen (often volunteers) are assigned to hospitals. For the most part, though, ombudsmen are assigned to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. The ombudsman’s role is to visit with patients and, when appropriate, to speak with the facility’s staff on behalf of those patients. Many states have an ombudsman program. To find out if your state has one, and to get more information if they do, click on the following links.

National Long Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center · 202-332-2275

Click on “Find Your State Ombudsman”

New York State Ombudsman Program · 800-342-9871 · 518-474-7329 (If calling from outside NY State)

Help With Insurance Concerns
Public and private organizations provide help with insurance concerns.

State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIP)
SHIP is a federal program available to Medicare beneficiaries and their families. Trained counselors provide free assistance regarding Medicare, Medicaid and Medigap policies. Offerings include help in understanding health plan options and help with claims and billing problems. To find the SHIP in your area, use the contact information, below, or call your local or state Area Agency for the Aging.

State Health Insurance (SHIP) Offices · 800-633-4227 (gen. info)
Scroll down to click on “List of State Health Insurance Offices” for web links and phone numbers.

The Patient Advocate Foundation · 800-532-5274
Click on “Personal Help” for information regarding their free services, which include phone or online consultations with a professional case manager.

Help With Claims and Billing Problems

Assistance with claims and billing problems are also available for those individuals who are not Medicare beneficiaries.  General speaking, this service is provided by professionals for a fee. While we cannot speak to the quality of the services available from the company listed below, we offer this link here because they offer, for sale, a comprehensive and understandable guide to assist individuals who prefer to resolve such problems themselves.

Medical Billing Advocates of America · 304-645-6389
Click on “Help Yourself” for information about their self-help guide, Medical Bill Workbook.


National Patient Safety Foundation · 413-663-8900

This links to an article entitled, “The Role of the Patient Advocate.” The article not only explains the role of the advocate, but also offers valuable suggestions on how to effectively use their help. the information included here is especially important when family and friends are the advocates. www.npsf.org/download/PatientAdvocate.pdf


Becoming a Volunteer Advocate
Individuals interested in volunteering as ombudsman or SHIP counselors can find information from the appropriate links above or by contacting their local or state Area Agency on the Aging.

Becoming a Professional Advocate

Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, NY · 914-337-0700
This program offers a Masters Degree in Health Advocacy

Cleveland State University, Ohio · 216-687-2144
This is an online, distance-learning certificate program, developed in collaboration with the Society for Healthcare Consumer Advocacy, a member organization of the American Hospital Association.