Patient advocates can help their clients solve medical mysteries because they can spend more time on research than most primary­-care physicians. When Aimé-Juedes met Bert Winemiller, she wondered if he had a respiratory problem. He had been coughing and wheezing for five years. A primary-care doctor ran respiratory tests and told him he was weeks away from dying because his lungs were delivering barely enough oxygen to keep him alive.

When Aimé-Juedes examined his medical records, she discovered that a heart-function indicator had risen over time. Yet five years later, Winemiller still was taking drugs for cardiomyopathy based on the initial low number in 2006. A side effect of those medications was respiratory problems.

Tests confirmed he never had cardiomyopathy. A cardiologist told him to stop taking the heart medications. His respiratory problems vanished. “Fortunately this misdiagnosis was caught,” says Winemiller, “and I stopped taking the medications that I never needed in the first place.”

He considers himself lucky to have met Aimé-Juedes.

“Mary saved my life.” 

Finding an Advocate

Before hiring a health care advocate, you’ll want to make sure the person’s background fits your needs. Some questions to ask:
  • Have you handled cases like mine before?
  • What would you typically do for someone in my situation?
  • What is your background and training?
  • How long will it take to perform the services I need?
  • What do you charge? How do you charge?
  • Do you have references?
  • Do you provide written reports?
  • What are your hours?
  • How do you communicate with clients?
To find patient advocates in your area, check out these directories:

• National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants
• AdvoConnection

Sandra Yin is a freelance writer based in Rockville, Md. She has written for many publications, including The New York Times and The Chronicle of Higher Education.