Health Care Deciphered: Patient Advocacy Coordinators are Here to Help

The health care system is nothing if not confusing. Learning to navigate the health care system on our own, many of us for the first time, can be a huge challenge. Luckily for us, Health Services has introduced a Patient Support Services program to help make sense of it all.

Director of Health Services Brian Druley lead the charge with developing this unique program. Druley’s vision centered on one thing: integrating student learning into the health services process. To accomplish this goal, the department instituted Patient Advocacy Coordinators at both the Evanston and Chicago campuses.

He said that although he looked to other schools for inspiration, this program is the most expansive of any he’s seen. “I wasn’t really finding any one particular university health service that was doing it all the way I was visualizing it,” Druley said. “I began to build my own conceptualization of what a patient advocate should be.”

Adebola Adeniyi, the Evanston campus’s coordinator, and Wendy Weaver, the Chicago campus’s, act as a “personal health care concierge” for students, according to Druley.

Adeniyi and Weaver can help talk students through every step of the healthcare process— starting with scheduling diagnostic tests and coordinating medical evaluations and interpreting health insurance coverage for those processes, all the way through deciphering billing information and insurance benefits after care is no longer necessary.

“Everything that’s a question that you have once you leave the exam room, those are questions you can ask a Patient Advocacy Coordinator,” Druley said. “Even things like patient satisfaction. If you’re frustrated with the care or had different expectations for the care you thought you needed, we can also help out in that type of situation.”

Druley also noted the benefits a Patient Advocacy Coordinator could present to international students who are learning to navigate an entirely new health care system. Especially because of the clinic-style approach that the University takes, it can be confusing to students who are used to a more long-term patient-doctor relationships.

To better judge what problems need to be addressed within health care accessibility, Health Services gives biannual satisfaction surveys to health services users to assess the gaps in students’ understanding of the resources available to them. The survey also allows Patient Support Services to grow by continually assessing what works well and where there is still room for improvement.

Most notably, Druley said that as the program progresses he hopes to see improvements in its ability to address students’ financial hardships. “I was aware of it before, but now I’m much more deeply aware of the specific challenges our students have,” he said. “Once we aggregate our data after our first full year here this summer, I would be much better prepared to have a much better understanding of what we might be able to work on in terms of addressing financial hardship for our overall student population."

The introduction of this program is a big step toward improving the process of using health care and taking the burden off of the shoulders of any students struggling to understand the services.