When Passion and Reality Collide

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Over the years, I have connected with thousands of people who intend to become independent health advocates and care managers, and 99.9% of them have one thing in common:  their choice of health advocacy as a career is a result of their passion for helping others.

They are caring individuals with skills for navigating some aspect of the healthcare system. They are empathetic, and those they will help recognize their empathy right away.They aren’t looking to make a fortune in business. Instead, their rewards will come from knowing they have helped to improve the quality of other people’s lives.

They probably don’t even realize that their passion can make a huge contribution to their success!  Research results released by Ernst and Young show that companies that operated with a clear and driving sense of purpose, beyond the goal of just making money, outperformed the S&P 500 by a factor of 10 between 1996 and 2011.

That’s the good news. That for those who establish health advocacy / care management practices, their focused passion may increase their chances of success and increased income.

But let’s dwell for a moment on that word “may.”

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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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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:

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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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Of Heroes, Trust, Discord, Arrogance, and Karma – Part II

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Last week I shared with you two stories of my physician heroes, why they are my heroes, their relationship to my work in patient empowerment and patient advocacy, and why you, too, should emulate their actions; their professionalism, their behavior, and the actions they each took to buck a dysfunctional system.

It’s all good, and true to karma, what went around came around – today good comes back to them. They both have stellar reputations within the community and among other physicians worldwide. Well-respected. Well-deserved reputations.

Which takes us to today, and the karma that has come around to one of the doctors who did not behave well.

I mentioned last week the very arrogant oncologist who led my misdiagnosis odyssey.  His arrogance was apparent in so many ways. When one of the lab reports referenced an additional missing lab report, not only had he not realized it wasn’t present, but then (after I figured out, and alerted him that it was missing), he told me he was sure it would make no difference anyway. (It did.) When I insisted on a second opinion before starting chemo, he yelled at me – I had no time to waste! I needed to start chemo immediately! (I didn’t.)  When I asked if there wasn’t some other form of treatment that might be effective, he admonished me for second-guessing him – how dare I! That I needed to stop looking on the internet for cures! (OK – he might have been right about that one, but I sure as heck didn’t believe that at the time, and it’s a d*mn good thing I kept looking!)

Once it was proven that he was wrong (as in – I didn’t die !), rather than simply own up to his mistakes or apologize, he instead wrote a three-page letter to me explaining how he had taken all the right steps in my case. Excuses and more excuses. Never mind that (had I not sought a second opinion) I would have gone through chemo for no reason. Never mind that, once I survived chemo, I would have suffered side effects for the rest of my life. And certainly never mind that on the other side of chemo, this very arrogant and condescending doctor would have been considered a hero for curing me of an incurable form of lymphoma. A paper would have been written about it, and future patients who really did have SPTCL would have received the chemo I received – and they would have died because it wasn’t really the right protocol.

(And – don’t forget – he would have made a LOT of money from treating me with chemo I didn’t need.)

Just a few years later, karma came back to bite him in the backside. Continue Reading →

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Preventing Our Own Brexit, Saving Our Clients and Advocacy Practices

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The whole world was fascinated last month by Brexit: the vote in Britain to leave the European Union. Would they leave? Wouldn’t they?

But to me, the most fascinating part was what happened the next day. Once the vote had taken place and the (bare) majority had voted to leave the EU, those who had voted to leave began to learn the real truth of what they had chosen, and realized they had been duped.

Yes, duped. Because the leaders on the “leave” side immediately disclaimed the promises they made. Ooops! they said!  No, we can’t really apply the billions of dollars we send each year to the EU to healthcare. We didn’t really mean that!  We lied to you because we wanted you to vote our way!

How could those politicians make all those promises they never intended to keep?  How did the majority of a citizenry fall for it? Why, now, do many of those citizens who voted to leave the EU wish they could take back their votes, because they have changed their minds?

Brits can blame themselves – period – for not being smarter about reality. They voted for something that wasn’t true or possible because they believed and shared what they heard and read, never vetting possibilities or veracity.  They Facebook-liked, and shared, and re-tweeted, and Instagramed, and discussed in pubs, all that misinformation, disinformation, political venom, disdain and hostility – never fact-checking, never discerning the truth.

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They simply passed on messages that supported their own wishes or philosophies – even when they were lies.

… Exactly like we Americans are doing today with our presidential election and its issues.

It had quite the ripple effect. Because they shared all those lies and vitriol, the world became a more dangerous and unstable place. (Just what happened to your 401K the week after Brexit?  My point is made.)

So what does this have to do with health and patient advocates?

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Survey Says! The Results Are In

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We privately paid, independent, professional patient advocates “tend to be older, white, female, more highly educated, and have other medical training or past careers in related professions.”

…. or at least that is one conclusion drawn by the surveyors — those who built, issued and analyzed the first National Health and Patient Advocate Survey.*

Both private, self-employed advocates, and employed advocates (hospitals, insurers, employers), were surveyed. Whether or not you were one of the folks who took the survey, if you have any interest in patient or health advocacy as a profession, you’ll be interested in the results.  They were issued June 30 – you can download the report from here.

But that’s not the best news from the results… The best news is…

(drumroll please!)

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These 8 Yard Sale Lessons May Improve Your Advocacy Practice

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We’ve made the decision. My husband and I have decided to leave cold Northeastern winters behind, and in just a few weeks we’ll be moving south.  We’ve sold our home in Upstate NY. We’ve purchased a home in Florida. We’ve put together the details for the actual move itself…

The only continuing challenge is one that will sound familiar to many of you. We have too much stuff.

When we moved into our current home in 2007, we were newly married. We jammed two entire households worth of stuff into this home – most of it simply moved to the basement. Then parents passed away and we collected even more stuff. Over the years our kids have removed their stuff, we’ve sold a few things, we’ve given a lot away… From holiday decorations, tools, and hobby supplies to old tax records, books, grandkids’ toys, games, and luggage. Family, sentimental, nostalgic, even historical. It’s the stuff accumulated throughout two lifetimes and those of our loved ones and… well, overwhelming, really.

But in Florida there are no basements!  Therein lies our problem….

The solution?  A yard sale, of course. So Saturday’s sale was round one.

Throughout the day I haggled, chatted, rearranged and sold stuff. But I also spent time just observing shoppers, and by the end of the day, I had put together a list of relevant customer service lessons for private, professional patient advocates.

Granted, there are some major differences between yard sale shoppers and patients who need advocates. But I hope you’ll be able to use this list to improve how you conduct business with the general public – most of whom will need to hire a private advocate sometime in the future.

Here are the customer service lessons that may be helpful to you:

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