The profession of private health and patient advocacy* (and navigation) is new, and does not yet have a nationally or internationally recognized certification body or program.
Until such a certification is available, and to protect the integrity of the profession, this Code of Conduct and Professional Standards was created to provide a central point of agreement and adherence for any and all professionals who call themselves patient or health advocates, navigators, case managers, careplanners or other names which perform similar services and deliver their services in private practice (not through an intermediary such as a hospital, insurance company or other organization with potential conflicting interests.)
We do not intend to suggest this Code and Standards are a national standard. Such a determination would need to be agreed to by a much more inclusive group of advocates. Instead, it is list of best practices that can be pointed to by those who understand its importance, to help garner trust and integrity within the new profession of private health and patient advocacy.
History of Ethics and Standards for the Profession of Health Advocacy
The first code of ethics adopted for private health advocacy was developed by the National Association of Health Advocacy Consultants (NAHAC). Ken Schueler, one of the pioneers of patient advocacy chaired NAHAC’s ethics committee, and a version of the committee’s code was adopted in late 2010. The NAHAC Code of Ethics is still in use and can be found here. NAHAC members are required to agree to adhere to the Code of Ethics in order to join the organization.
This Code of Conduct & Professional Standards is not intended to eclipse the good work being done by NAHAC. It is intended to reinforce that good work. However, not all advocates are members of NAHAC. In addition, some forms of advocacy (billing and claims, mediation and others) are not addressed by NAHAC’s service offerings.
Recognizing the need for a Code that all private advocates may choose to adhere to, regardless of the form of advocacy they practice or their membership in any given organization, a committee comprised of members of the Alliance of Professional Health Advocates proposed the Code and Standards found here in 2011.
While the approach is different, the tenets are similar. Advocates are invited to subscribe to one or both Codes, and to make sure their patients, clients and prospective clients understand the foundation of integrity on which these Codes and Standards were built and will grow.
* Private, professional health advocates are defined as those advocates who work directly for patients, their families and caregivers, and not through an intermediary such as a hospital, insurer, or other person or organization that may have conflicting interests. Learn more about private, professional patient and health advocacy.