“Health Advocate” vs “Patient Advocate”: 7 Reasons the Debate Is a Waste of Time

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Although you may not realize it, there is a debate raging about titles in advocacy. 

I chose this topic today not because I have an opinion on THE right title; rather because I think the debate is a waste of time, and is a distraction from the more important work of helping people understand how advocates and care managers can help them.

The debate is this:  Should we be called Health Advocates?  Or should we be called Patient Advocates?

It might surprise you to know that some people not only have very definite opinions on the answer to that question, but that they argue the point for hours at a time. In my (not so) humble opinion, for every hour they argue, they could instead have promoted advocacy and the many benefits to working with an advocate – no matter what he or she is called.

Here are the reasons I think this argument is a waste of time:

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Direct to Patients: Frank, Honest, and Motivational

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In Marketing 101, we learn that we learn that it is imperative to accurately identify our target audiences, then , then develop motivational messages for them about the benefits of working with us.

Find the right people. Share the right messages.

The blog you’re reading right now does just that: it speaks to advocates and care managers (you! – the right people – our target audience of advocates, care managers, and those who wish to join our profession) to teach them something about their work, and to help them understand the benefits of connection with The Alliance of Professional Health Advocates. (Yes, I try to practice what I preach!)

Last week we launched a new benefit for APHA members – which helps them do exactly what Marketing 101 teaches. It speaks directly to THEIR target audiences to help those audiences better understand the benefits of working with independent advocates, then help them find the right advocate to work with.

OK – a bit confusing – so let me sort it out.

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Hey Little Girls: Yes, Women Can Be Brilliant!

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(To my gentleman readers – please pardon this week’s post. You are more than welcome to read it, of course, and there will be advantages to doing so, but it’s really aimed at the females among us. That will make sense momentarily.)

This week’s post comes as a result of three experiences from the past few weeks, all reminders of the necessity of tooting one’s own horn.

We’ll set the stage with one of those experiences; that is, publication this week by the AP of this article

Little girls doubt that women can be brilliant, study shows

Now, I’m a firm believer that headlines are really only intended to suck us readers in – so I didn’t just take the headline at face value. 

I read the full article… Unfortunately, and frustratingly, the headline is a very accurate representation of the research results.  And I am appalled. 

So much so, that it made me double down on the meat of this post – to be revealed in a moment – and the reason why this matters to us as patient advocates (no matter whether we are male or female.)

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An Advocate’s Website Checklist

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As we close in on the end of the year, many of you are (or at least should be) in the process of reviewing your marketing plans in preparation for the new year.

Others among you, those who are just getting started with building advocacy practices, may be looking at ways to improve what you’ve started (or maybe you even just hope to get started!)

Among the marketing tactics we should all be using is a marketing website. In fact, except for finding public speaking opportunities, your website is arguably THE most important piece of marketing you can use.

Most of you realize that, and appropriately put your efforts into building effective websites. During the past few weeks, I’ve been asked to review a handful of advocates’ websites. Unfortunately, I have had to say no – there has just been no time to do so.

So I thought about how could I help out without getting myself into a time pickle… and began writing…

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Charge More! It’s Good for Everyone (Including Your Clients)!

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It’s the question I’m asked by newbies more frequently than any other:

How much can I charge?  (BTW – what they really mean is – How much can I make?)

To answer those questions in 2014, I posed these questions:

  • What is it worth to find someone who can provide quality to a life that has little or no quality because of health problems?
  • What is it worth to find someone who can save you tens of thousands of dollars, or to prevent you from going bankrupt?
  • What is it worth to find someone who can alleviate your fear and provide peace of mind?

The answers were straightforward:

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Shooting Your Advocacy Practice in the Foot

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Readers of this blog may remember that my husband and I have been in the process of moving – from Upstate NY (where they had 40 inches of snow last week!) to Central Florida. (No, no snow here so far 🙂 )

Moving is a bear – there are no two ways about that. Ours took place in two stages: first to a rental house, putting 75% of our household goods into storage. Then Stage Two, this past week, moving into our newly built home, bringing our goods out of storage. Now, of course, we’re trying to make our way through all those boxes, put everything away into its new place, learn to live in a new space, dig through the chaos that any move entails, all the while wailing “This is the last move! No more! Too much!” 

Many of you have been there, and done that.

As I did during the early part of the move last spring, I’m going to share with you a couple of lessons gleaned along the way of the move because they are about working with people – the bread and butter of any advocacy business. They are so important, they can make or break your business.

The moving business is a service business, just as advocacy is a service business. Moving is extremely stressful just as any healthcare challenge is stressful. That makes it incumbent upon any service provider who supports clients going through stressful events (from advocates and medical providers to movers) to make stress relief part of their jobs.

The basics of stress relief are communications and consistency. You have to do the work, and you have to do it well and correctly, of course. But if you can’t communicate effectively, manage expectations, or be consistent, well – you are shooting yourself in the foot. Lack of those basics will undermine your success.

I would never again hire The Mover who moved us from New York to Florida. The reasons provide some excellent lessons for today’s post.

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What the Presidential Election Results Mean for Patient Advocates

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When President Barack Obama ran for office in 2008, healthcare reform was already an enormous and contentious topic.

In those days, I was invited to speak to dozens of groups of patients and caregivers to help audiences sort out the issues that comprised healthcare reform so they could, on their own, decide which aspects (if any) were important to them. From the concept of “universal” healthcare through a public option, to coverage for pre-existing conditions, to portability, tort reform, free vaccinations to develop “herd immunity,” and many more, we looked at the whole of the topic as objectively as possible.

Before I started each talk, I would challenge audiences to figure out which side I was on by the time we were finished – reform? or no reform? It gave me great satisfaction that a show of hands at the end usually resulted in about a 50-50 split, demonstrating as much neutrality as I had been able to muster. It was somewhat surprising, because I was very much in favor of reform and truly not objective about the subject at all.

What I never mentioned to any of my audiences was this: that the bottom line for patient advocates was that healthcare reform was, simply, job security.

The reason: no matter what became of healthcare reform (and, of course, history tells us it became Obamacare, AKA the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or the ACA) – no matter what decisions became the law of the land, Americans were going to be confused by it all. They would be confused about costs, access, costs, access, access, and of course, costs, all of which could have huge detrimental effects on their health and care.

The more confused they became, the more they would need a health or patient advocate to help out.

Thus, job security.

That brings us to the 2016 presidential race, and victory for the candidate who said he will work to repeal the ACA.

No matter what your feelings about the outcome of last week’s presidential election, there are a few things advocates can take to the bank:

  • The healthcare system will go into further upheaval as the ACA is dismantled.
  • Patients and caregivers will find themselves more confused and frustrated than they have ever been.
  • The moneymakers in the system will seek new ways to maintain and grow their own profits, shifting and being shifty, making it even more difficult for patients to get the care they need at a cost they can afford.
  • The demand for private, independent advocates will grow – even more – and there won’t be enough advocates to help the patients and caregivers who need them.
  • Yes – all this adds up to even more job security.

We can’t anticipate exactly what changes will be made, but that doesn’t really matter. People are scared and confused now – today – because they just don’t know what to expect. They didn’t know before the election and they feel even less in control now. Even through the ACA, pricing has gone up in most states, and people feel like they are getting less and less for their money. Their confusion and frustration (and anger) is going from bad to worse.

They need help. They want help.

If you are absolutely serious about growing a successful advocacy practice, then NOW is the time to prepare. There will be no better time in history to establish your practice (if you haven’t already) and to expand it (if you’re already in business.)

Here’s how.

If you are just getting started:

If you’ve been in business for awhile:

For all professional advocates:

riper

What are you waiting for?

LEARN ABOUT APHA MEMBERSHIP | FIND MORE REASONS PATIENTS NEED ADVOCATES

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Carly Simon, Ketchup and an Advocate’s Secret Sauce

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Many readers of this blog (members of The Alliance of Professional Health Advocates) know we’ve been burning the candle at both ends trying to complete the build of the new APHA membership website.  Short of raising my two daughters, I think it’s the biggest project I’ve ever undertaken – just enormous – hundreds of resources and thousands of pages – and I’m happy that it is now complete! (Or at least as close as it will ever be – these things are never truly complete.)

Along the way, I’ve learned a few lessons about how to approach the work that can help you, too. And here is the bottom line to those lessons:

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