Using Advocacy Specialties to Create Niches

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When I glance at the many topics our AdvoConnection members post about in the Forum, I find certain people posting on certain kinds of topics.  That leads me to believe that they have special interests – or expertise – in those topics….

Which leads me to thinking that the patients and caregivers who are hiring them have interest in those topics, too.

So why not use them in marketing?

For example:

  • One such topic has developed around interest in integrative approaches to care.  At least one of the health advocacy educational programs was developed to focus strictly on integrative care.  A handful of our member advocates have taken coursework, or have otherwise developed special interests in integrative care – and I know from questions that come to me from patients that they are interested in integrative care, too.
  • Another topic is pain management.  With doctors appointments becoming more difficult to come by, and with fear mounting on the parts of doctors that they will lose their licenses for prescribing pain meds – having special expertise in pain management (complementary approaches such as acupuncture, guided imagery and others) is something patients and caregivers may be seeking more and more.
  • A third topic is mental health.  A patient who has continual, unresolved physical health needs may, in fact, have mental health needs that have not yet been identified.  An advocate who studies or works in this area can help in ways someone who does not better understand the ties between mental and physical health cannot, and can work to have a patient assessed by a mental health provider.

There may be others that aren’t so obvious – but the minute you talk about them to a potential client, the lightbulb may go off:

  • A patient who continues to experience new, unsettling symptoms may need his or her medications reviewed for conflicts, or may simply need a schedule drawn and a reminder system set up. You can arrange for such a review.
  • A patient who is continually calling on an adult child for help for not-such-big-things may actually be depressed and may need to discuss that possibility with is or her doctor.  You can be the catalyst.
  • A patient who goes undiagnosed for a long period of time may not be seeing the right kinds of specialists.  You can be the person who researches alternative body systems or diseases to figure out what other kind of specialist may have a better chance of finding the right diagnosis.
  • Billing advocates can choose niches, too.  Learning, and promoting specific areas of expertise like understanding coding errors or seeking specific sections of hospital billing that is prone to errors.  Talking about little known (by patients) places of “finding money” for your potential clients will give them confidence that you can help them.

Give some thought to the work you’ve done with patients to this point to identify the areas that were of most interest to you, and of most help to them – and try to develop a niche around them.  Then promote that niche as best you can so that over time, you’ll be identified with that niche.

One caveat:  don’t make claims you don’t have a successful track record with.  For example, unless you have experience, or specific coursework in pain management, don’t tell patients you can help them manage their pain – because nothing will be worse than the patient who isn’t helped and tells everyone they know that you broke your promises.  Managing expectations well, as always, is important.

Helping your potential clients understand specific ways you might be able to help them will help you satisfy them, and grow your practice, too.

Have you developed a specific niche in your work that you promote to patients and caregivers?

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| FOR PATIENTS | FOR ADVOCATES |
Notes from the Hospital Bedside
Patient Advocates and HIPAA

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