UCLA Certificate in Patient Advocacy

In June of 2014 I completed the UCLA Patient Advocate Certificate program earning my certificate “with distinction.” (Documentation is available upon request). This summary of the program will give you a better idea of my background. Earning this certificate does not mean that I am “licensed” or “certified.” At present, there are no agencies, government or otherwise, who license, certify or set qualifications for patient advocates

The program itself is an online curriculum comprised of eight 10-week courses. Typically every week for each course, students must submit two written contributions to an online. In addition students must submit an essay on the week’s topic which is graded by the instructor. Finally, there are exams or multi-week projects required in each course. This adds up to over 300 written assignments required to complete the program. Here is a week-by-week look at the weekly topics for all of the courses:

Here is a week by week look at the weekly topics for all eight courses. The course descriptions are taken form UCLA’s website and course syllabi. I have edited them for brevity and clarity. — Jess Joseph

Health Care Law and Legal Issues in Patient Advocacy

Our nation’s health care providers and delivery systems operate under an array of complex state, and federal laws that are ever changing. Patient advocates need a current working knowledge of the laws and regulations involving patient rights and responsibilities. Taught by experts in health law, this course presents the fundamental legal structure that affects the delivery of health care in the United States.

  • Week 1: Overview: What Patient Advocates Should Know About the Law & Legal System and Why
  • Week 2: Introduction to the US Legal System
  • Week 3: The Physician/Provider and Patient Relationship
  • Week 4: Medical Records Basics and Ownership
  • Week 5: Informed Consent, Mental Competency/Mental Capacity
  • Week 6: Patient Confidentiality and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
  • Week 7: Health Care Proxies, Guardianships/Conservatorships, Power of Attorney
  • Week 8: Mediation and Negotiation: Reaching Agreement, Resolving Disputes Advocating with Health Insurance Companies
  • Week 9: Ethical and Bioethical Issues Related to Patient Advocacy
  • Week 10: Elder Care, Long Term Care and End of Life Issues
  • Required Textbook: Medical Law and Ethics (4th Edition), Bonnie F. Fremgen
  • Required Textbook: Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, William L. Ury
  • Required Textbook: The California Patient’s Guide: Your Health Care Rights and Remedies

Fundamentals of the U.S. Health Care System

This course provides an overview of the health care system. Students receive a foundation for understanding health care delivery systems, health insurance policies, benefits, and costs in order to assist patients and providers in navigating the intense, dynamic, and complex U.S. health care system.

  • Week 1: Access to Care in the U.S. Health Care System
  • Week 2: Commercial Insurance Markets
  • Week 3: Public Sources of Coverage: Medicaid & CHIP
  • Week 4: Public Sources of Coverage: Medicare
  • Week 5: Financing of the Health Care System
  • Week 6: Health Care Delivery in the United States
  • Week 7: Cost Containment and Managed Care
  • Week 8: Quality of Care
  • Week 9: Patient Safety
  • Week 10: Health Policy and Reform Efforts

Required Textbook: Jonas and Kovner’s Health Care Delivery in the United States, 10th Edition, Springer Publishing, 2011.

The Practice of Patient Advocacy

This course covers the professional scope of practice, role delineation, and job functions the patient advocate. Students learn how to work and communicate with clients of all ages from a wide variety of cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds. Students learn how to function as a team member with doctors, nurses, administrators and social workers in a hospital or clinical setting.

  • Week 1: Historical Perspective on Patient Advocacy
  • Week 2: Defining Patient Advocacy in Healthcare
  • Week 3: Advocacy in Healthcare: A Growing Profession
  • Week 4: Patient Rights: Empowering Diverse Patient Populations
  • Week 5: Cultural Competence and Communication in Hospitals
  • Week 6: Overview of Human Development
  • Week 7: Special Considerations with Pediatric Populations
  • Week 8: Patient Advocacy with Mental Health Services
  • Week 9: Family Systems and Grief Theories
  • Week 10: Self Care and Mindfulness in Advocacy Practice
  • Required Textbook: Jansson, Bruce A. (2010). Improving Healthcare through Advocacy. Wiley and Sons. ISBN: 047050529X

Communication Strategies in the Health Care System

In their role as liaison, patient advocates often communicate with the health care team about patient satisfaction, emergent complaints, access to care, insurance issues, and other matters of importance to patients and families. This course teaches the critical skill-set necessary to effectively communicate both verbally and in writing when advocating in the health care setting.

  • Week 1: Organizational Context of the Patient Advocate
  • Week 2: Your Role: Advocate, Change Agent, or Both?
  • Week 3: Communication Basics for the Helping Professions
  • Week 4: Supporting Patients and Families in the Healthcare Setting
  • Week 5: Grievance Management Essentials
  • Week 6: Helping Patients and Families Advocate for Themselves
  • Week 7: Communication Challenges in our Complex Health System
  • Week 8: The Advocate’s Role in Resolving Conflict
  • Week 9: Additional Communication Topics
  • Week 10: Summation and Lessons Learned

Introduction to Health Care Finance

Patient advocates may be called upon to answer questions and provide resources to assist patients and family members with financial matters. This course outlines the fundamental concepts, knowledge, and skills necessary to discuss aspects of private insurance, Medicare and Medicaid coverage, how to navigate third-party payer systems, and how to identify resources for the uninsured.

  • Week 1: Financing health care in the U.S. – payers and players
  • Week 2: Health care settings and business basics
  • Week 3: Estimating costs and provider pricing decisions
  • Week 4: Basic insurance concepts and characteristics
  • Week 5: Third-party payers and managed care organizations
  • Week 6: Alternative reimbursement methods
  • Week 7: Billing processes and the elements of a provider bill
  • Week 8: Questioning or challenging a bill or reimbursement
  • Week 9: Personal accountability and payment for services
  • Week 10: Financial support processes and programs
  • Required Textbook: Green, M.A. & Rowell, J.C. (2013). Understanding Health Insurance: A Guide to Billing and Reimbursement.

Conflict and Crisis Management

This course teaches skills that are effective in resolving conflicts and crises involving patients, family members and providers. The ultimate goal in conflict resolution is to build relationships so that parties involved can reach a resolution that meets individual and shared needs, resulting in mutual benefits. Students study the knowledge and skills required to promote discussion, problem solving, negotiation, reconciliation, compromise, and resolution among stakeholders in a variety of setting.

  • Week 1: Overview: What Patient Advocates Should Know About the Law & Legal System and Why
    Week 2: Introduction to the US Legal System
  • Week 3: The Physician/Provider and Patient Relationship
  • Week 4: Medical Records Basics and Ownership
  • Week 5: Informed Consent, Mental Competency/Mental Capacity
  • Week 6: Patient Confidentiality and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
  • Week 7: Health Care Proxies, Guardianships/Conservatorships, Power of Attorney
  • Week 8: Mediation and Negotiation: Reaching Agreement, Resolving Disputes Advocating with Health Insurance Companies
  • Week 9: Ethical and Bioethical Issues Related to Patient Advocacy
  • Week 10: Elder Care, Long Term Care and End of Life Issues
  • Required Textbook: Gwen van Servellen, Communication Skills For The Health Care Professional: Concepts, Practice, And Evidence, 2ed. (2008)

Introduction to Bioethics

Patients face a variety of options and alternatives in making healthcare decisions. Patient advocates need a working knowledge of ethical issues involving patient, family, and physician rights and responsibilities. This course provides an overview of the ethical and moral questions that arise in the practice of patient advocacy in relation to medical treatment and scientific research.

  • Week 1: Arguments, Religion, and Relativism
  • Week 2: Utilitarianism
  • Week 3: Deontology
  • Week 4: Health, Disease, and the Role of Medicine
  • Week 5: Paternalism and Truth-Telling
  • Week 6: Autonomy and Informed Consent
  • Week 7: Cultural Diversity and the Obligations of Medicine
  • Week 8: Abortion
  • Week 9: Reproductive Technology and Genetic Selection
  • Week 10: Death, Euthanasia, and Refusal of Treatment
  • Required Textbook: Lewis Vaughn, Bioethics: Principles, Issues, and Cases (Second Edition)

Care Planning and Patient Navigation

This capstone course covers the knowledge and skills required to create roadmaps for patient navigation and care planning. Students create a simulated patient case study in the first week of class and develop a care plan and roadmap for navigation. Every 3 weeks students discuss patient cases and resources for care planning with team members.

  • Week 1: The Art of Conducting Assessments
  • Week 2: Telling the Story: The Importance of Documentation
  • Week 3: Correcting Mistakes in Documentation and Considerations in Ethical Conduct
  • Week 4: Measuring Impact: How do patient advocates know they are making an impact?
  • Week 5: Developing Best Practices in Patient Advocacy
  • Week 6: Patient Navigation and Advocacy: One and the Same?
  • Week 7: Enhancing Your Resource Network
  • Week 8: Special Topic: Motivational Interviewing
  • Week 9: Career Perspectives
  • Week 10: Practical Considerations for Incorporating Self-Care Strategies
  • Required Textbook: Jansson, Bruce A. (2010). Improving Healthcare through Advocacy. Wiley and Sons.