Concierge Advocacy for Cancer Patients and Caregivers

Lea Ann Biafora spotted the $25,000 mistake in less than an hour. The founder and CEO of Beacon Advocates was assisting a cancer patient and his caregiver at the time, navigating the complexities of a recent cancer diagnosis. As part of a case review, she examined the patient’s insurance plan for coverage to help identify any potential barriers to care access. One glance at an online billing statement raised an immediate red flag.

The corresponding procedure was coded incorrectly, and she set forth immediately to right the snafu. Such revelations are just part of the job for Biafora, who founded Beacon in 2012 as a cancer care management company; today, she and her nurse and social worker advocate team offer professional guidance and advocacy services. And though the $25,000 mistake is one she is glad to have remedied, it’s just one of many benefits of enlisting an advocate.

“Our mission is to improve the cancer care experience by providing clinical clarity and advocacy while inspiring confidence for people affected by cancer,” Biafora says. “We achieve this by eliminating barriers to excellent cancer care.”

Beacon Advocates review and audit cancer-related medical billing, but this is just the tip of their cancer care advocacy iceberg. All Beacon Advocates are oncology registered nurses and social workers who have been carefully vetted. Perhaps the most essential service Biafora and her team provide is the management of all aspects of life throughout a cancer journey.

Beacon Advocates conduct comprehensive cancer case reviews that include the latest drug and clinical trials with emerging treatment options. The team also provides logistical support: arranging transportation, housing, and helping patients gain access to local and national financial resources. Beacon Advocates will even arrange short-term pet care in the event a patient is unable to do so due to hospitalization, etc.

“Our highly qualified team of oncology professionals serves as a beacon – a light of hope and guidance during a difficult time,” Biafora says.

The current pandemic has presented unique challenges for those living with cancer. Medical resources are increasingly channeled toward those with COVID-19. Oncology patients can find themselves lost in the shuffle. Necessary appointments are being rescheduled, and treatments delayed. Quarantine protocols are making it difficult for a family to visit hospitalized loved ones. Throughout all these challenges, the experienced Beacon Advocates cut through the bureaucracy to chart alternative options for patients.

“Pandemic or not, we want what’s best for the patient, and we advocate for them to receive the highest quality of care possible,” Biafora says.

Aside from pandemic concerns, Biafora points to the growing complexities in the health care and insurance systems as prime reasons to enlist an advocate’s help. Advancements in treatment options and clinical trial openings can be overwhelming to follow. Beacon’s ability to keep up-to-date regarding a patient’s needs helps to ease caregiver fatigue.

Here’s how it works: Patients or caregivers can hire Beacon Advocates directly. Employers and insurers do sometimes foot the bill for the navigation and advocacy services, as do select oncology providers who seek additional support for care coordination. Once hired, the assigned advocate acts swiftly to assess the needs and wants of the patient and caregivers. Beacon obtains all relevant medical records and information to allow for a thorough review of the patient’s medical situation. Then, an action plan is developed and prioritized and put into action.

Beacon Advocates help even when the outcome is dire. Recently, a 47-year-old man asked his advocate to help him return to Canada; a dual citizen, he did not have any caregivers in the United States, and his cancer had been deemed terminal. Within hours of being hired, the nurse advocate arranged around-the-clock private duty nursing care, obtained oxygen, and identified and corrected a significant prescription pain medication error. Within three days, the nurse advocate helped to arrange and organize all aspects of the patient’s medical care and transport to Canada, even amidst border closure. The nurse then helped arrange all aspects of medical care while transitioning the patient to hospice.

“Individual attention like this can make such a difference in a cancer patient’s journey,” Biafora says. “Beacon Advocates guide patients to achieve better-coordinated cancer care.”