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Healthcare advocates

If you or a loved one is undergoing treatment for a health problem or considering surgery, you know navigating the modern health care system can be scary and overwhelming. That's why more and more medical experts say it's a good idea to ask a trusted family member or friend to be your "advocate."

The Patient Advocate's Handbook says patients fair better when they have a second set of eyes and ears to help decipher all that goes along with medical care. So here are some important tips you need to know to be a good advocate or to choose one:

- At the doctor's office or hospital, an advocate should gather information by being a good listener and asking questions your loved one might have neglected.

- An advocate should be familiar with a patient's medical insurance policy and basic coverage. Because down the line an advocate can be very helpful auditing and sorting through the bills.

And if you choose to be someone's healthcare advocate, keep a dated journal to record new facts, conversations and observations you made while providing care. This journal could even prevent or discover medical mistakes.

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