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We’ve talked about compassionate care with Dr. Niraj Mehta and the Cupcake Man Project and how important it is that the patient gets the type of care from the medical community that they deserve and need, but what if you are new to the city of Houston and don’t know how to navigate the Medical Center system? Or what if you are at the right Doctor, but can’t understand the answers that they are giving you and aren’t sure what questions to ask? And let’s not even talk about the bills that you receive from the hospitals and insurance that you have to navigate, which can be overwhelming when you are dealing with everything else! If you find yourself in any of these predicaments, then it might be time to call on Patient Advocate, Bonnie Sheeren.
The goal of the Patient Advocate is not to take the place of the Doctor or the medical care that the patient is receiving, but to have patience with the patient and help guide the patient and educate the patient when it comes to safe, appropriate and budget friendly medical care. There is always room to ask questions, and the Patient Advocate can be your compassionate lifeline and your friend during one of the scariest times in your life.
What does a Patient Advocate do?
- They can help you navigate and work with the Hospitals and Insurance Companies on billing issues. Often times, bills come in from Hospitals and Insurance Companies that just don’t look right. Don’t despair! If you call Bonnie Sheeren, she can help by contacting the right people and working through the bill with you and going so far as talking to the Insurance Company and hospital as well.
- A Patient Advocate can help you research. How many times have you gotten a diagnosis and you leave the Doctor’s office and have no idea what they have said, much less understand the course of treatment they want to use? Call Bonnie. She can dig up all the research on not only what the Doctor has recommended, but on other types of treatments that are being used for your diagnosis. She can also help you with questions that you need to ask your Doctor before starting treatment.
- Doctor’s are human and make mistakes. If you feel your Doctor has made a mistake, but don’t know where to turn, call Bonnie. She can recommend several other Doctor’s that specialize in what you need.
- Do you need to get into MD Anderson? Call Bonnie. She can help you navigate what to say to get the quickest available appointment with the right specialist.
- If you are scared and need someone with you at your appointment to help you translate what the Doctor is saying, call Bonnie. She not only understands Doctor ‘speak’, she can ‘speak’ Doctor speak and can help you get through very difficult appointments.
- New to town and don’t understand how the Medical Center works, where to stay, where to eat, what to do? Call Bonnie. She can get you set up and pointed in all the right directions.
- Just need a shoulder to lean on? Call Bonnie. She will either be your shoulder or knows of many support groups in the area that she can help you find.
- Want to do your own research? Call Bonnie. She is a wealth of information, from websites for medications to finding the right Doctors.
Like most of us, we don’t seem to end up where we started, but we do end up where we are supposed to be, which is what happened with Bonnie Sheeren. Bonnie started out as a Video Producer and went to work at the Medical Center producing and shooting medical videos. She found that she was not only good at it, but that she understood the medical language, which is a language that not many understand. Soon, her friends and friends of friends would call and ask her for help to guide them through the Medical Center, since she worked there.
Although it was a natural progression, what really sealed the deal for her to become a Patient Advocate full time was a childhood memory of a surgery gone wrong she had at 6-years old. This made her always question the Doctor’s and what they were doing, as well as be extra cautious when it came to her own medical care and that of her family. She realized that finding the right Doctor with the right answer to the diagnosis was like solving a puzzle, and when the Patient was happy and grateful, then she felt wonderful.
Bonnie Sheeren is passionate about her patients and has so much patience. She loves what she does and it shows. She is an advocate in every sense of the word, and we would want her in our corner if we had to navigate an illness. We were blown away with the love she has for her work and her patients and it is her calling. What advice does Bonnie Sheeren have for us?
First, don’t let the fear outweigh the symptoms. It’s hard to do, but if you can get past the fear, then you can ask the right questions to get the right care and treatment. No question is a dumb question when you are diagnosed with an illness. Second, educate yourself! Go to online forums, use a Patient Advocate, visit websites and ask questions.