Empowering Patients & Families

 Photography by Greg Miller
May 11, 2018

Why Become A Board Certified Patient Advocate?

People have been advocating for patients for years without benefit of certification; the only requirement being a good heart and willingness to engage the healthcare or insurance industries on behalf of patients and their families. As has reported in the New York Times  and other publications, in recent years there has been an upsurge in people interested in being patient advocates as well as people needing an advocate. Many, if not most, of these advocates were very good and provided excellent services; however, up until now, there was no formal certification process for patient advocates. Anyone could represent him or herself as a patient advocate and it was up to patients and families to sort out a prospective patient advocate’s qualifications.

A number of very experienced patient advocates, leaders in the field, saw the need for a broadly recognized certification process and formed the Patient Advocate Certification Board (PACB). The goal of PACB is to develop standards and practices that reflect the broad knowledge and insight of the diverse professional community, not just the perspective of any single individual or organization.  As a part of that process, PACB developed a certification examination that was given for the first time in March 2018. One-hundred and forty-nine people passed, of which I was one. It was a one hundred-twenty-five question test, designed to take 3 hours. Topics included healthcare law, ethics, knowledge of the healthcare system as well as of the appropriate scope of practice of a patient advocate. As a veteran of more comprehensive exams than I can remember (GMAT, GRE, SAT, veterinary licensing boards, certifying exam for the American College of Veterinary Surgeons among others), I have to say I was very impressed with the care and professionalism with which this exam was both constructed and administered. I believe that the exam truly tested the body of knowledge any patient advocate should have, regardless of his or her specialty.

While it was personally rewarding to study for and pass the exam, I believe the principal beneficiaries of the certification process will be the general public. No one is at their finest when they are looking for a patient advocate. By definition, a stressful healthcare situation has arisen. Knowing a prospective patient advocate has achieved Board Certification provides confidence that he or she has demonstrated a measurable level of expertise in the area and thus may simplify the choice of advocate.