As part of our Women, Money and Impact series, we recently hosted a lunch-and-learn with Dr. Stacey Batista of Sirona Health Advocates. Dr. Batista is a patient advocate—a resource we at Artemis believe to be quite valuable to someone facing a complicated medical diagnosis or perhaps trying to navigate end-of-life care for a family member. I found Dr. Batista when I was recently trying to navigate both my aunt’s end-of-life care plan and my uncle’s recovery from prostate cancer and was feeling overwhelmed not only by all the choices, but also the lack of solid information we were receiving.
To share a bit more about the evolving patient advocate role, the following are excerpts from that lunch-and-learn conversation with Dr. Batista.
Kathleen McQuiggan: What is a patient advocate?
Dr. Stacey Batista: As a patient advocate, I help my clients organize their healthcare, truly understand their options, and make the best choices for themselves. Our healthcare system is complicated and impersonal. As such, it’s easy to feel reduced to a diagnosis, a disease, a body part, a problem. A patient advocate can help to oversee your journey through the healthcare system, reduce your stress, improve your overall experience and outcome, and put you on the path to better health.
KM: What is your approach to working with clients?
SB: The first step is a complimentary call to discuss your health concerns, ways we can work together, and commitment of services. Next, I undertake a comprehensive health review and create a personal assessment plan, with relevant action steps that support your goals and values. Throughout the entire process, I work with you to better understand your diagnoses, treatment options, new and/or alternative treatments, and arrange consultations with top specialists and medical centers. As your health advocate, I’ll be a part of your team. I can accompany you to clinician appointments, visit you during hospital stay(s), and see that your health values are represented.
KM: What is your goal in working with clients as a patient advocate?
SB: My goal is for you to feel empowered, informed, and in control of your medical care and overall health. Every person has a right to live their values in determining their medical care. I believe that people experiencing medically complex situations often aren’t provided the opportunity to step back and consider what their values and overall goals are, and thus the opportunity to personally shape their treatment course. I help clients define their healthcare choices with what they also value personally in their life, what brings them joy, and how they wish to spend their time.
KM: Stacey, can you share a bit about your background?
SB: I am a graduate of Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, where I also completed my internship in Medicine/Surgery in 2002. I took a hiatus from practicing medicine to raise my two children and care for my ailing parents. This experience showed me firsthand the demands on family and caregivers when faced with managing serious health conditions— including pancreatic cancer, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease. I hold a Certificate in Healthcare Advocacy from Healthcare Liaison, Inc. As a physician, I bring the insight and knowledge of medicine—from defining different treatment options to connecting and coordinating with the right specialists, to understanding complex medical evaluations. As a parent, daughter, patient, and caregiver, I understand that the ups and downs of diagnosis and treatment are challenging. It is with this combined experience that I can provide effective, knowledgeable, patient-centered, compassionate health advocacy.
KM: Can you share an example of a client engagement?
SB: I have a client who is struggling with chronic pain – and this causes a myriad of other symptoms and complications for him as well. I’ve spoken with his therapist, his pain doctor, his neurologist, his PCP, his urologist, his orthopedic surgeon, a few different eye specialists, occupational and neurologic therapy practitioners – all of whom are individually working with my client. I am the one person though who gets to interact with them all, see how their advice and recommendations affect my client, provide additional insight as needed to enrich their work with him, and then collaborate with him to determine what is helpful and what isn’t. Some recommendations we decide to shelve for later, some we pursue more aggressively, and throughout it all, I am the one person who has their finger on everything that’s happening.
KM: How are our financial lives and our medical lives intertwined?
SB: While people worry about long-term and short-term financial decisions and frequently reach out to accountants, financial advisors, and others for guidance, another looming concern that most people tackle alone is decisions about their health. As you help people navigate the financial world, I support them in navigating the medical world. There are many ways in which these two worlds intersect – with end of life planning, estate planning, insurance considerations, housing, and overall quality of life. For each of us working and thinking strategically with our clients, a consideration of the financial and medical go hand in hand. I believe everyone has the right to understand their health status fully and to direct their healthcare, just as they do their financial status and direction. My work and my goal are to empower my clients to do just that.