“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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A Career, a Profession, and a Calling with Responsibility, Too

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Most of us working as advocates apply the word “profession” to our work.  Those who have been advocates for a longer period of time might tell you it has turned into a career.

I often hear from new advocates, or those who wannabe advocates that they feel that this profession of advocacy (or what might evolve for them to a career of advocacy) is also a calling.  So let’s look at that word “calling” for a minute.

Merriam Webster tells us that a calling is:

a strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action especially when accompanied by conviction of divine influence

Amen.

So now let’s look at “divine influence” – because recognizing divine influence, then acting on it, becomes a huge turning point in one’s life.

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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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The 2017 Advocates’ Challenges

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Since I started this blog, and as each new year begins, I try to think of ways to challenge advocate-readers (and advocate-wannabe-readers) with ways they can improve their work, their results for clients, and their businesses, too.

This year, that task is so very simple.  Unfortunately, that’s not the good news. Sadly, it’s more like the bad news.

Bad news – because this year’s challenges all come from complaints and problems I’ve been asked to respond to – or even fix – in just the past few months. Oh how I dislike this part of my work!  I hate dealing with complaints – hearing them from people who feel they have been wronged, attempting to be reassuring, defending some of the actions they think were wrong….  And I hate fixing problems, no matter whether I caused them myself, or they have to be fixed for someone else. I suspect you feel exactly the same way.

My biggest concern, which you’ll understand as you read this post, is that not attending to these problems may invite even bigger ones.

So today I’m going to address three of them, all of which YOU can pay attention to, and make sure you’re doing them right yourself. They set the stage for this year’s challenges, turning negatives into positives. There are lessons – and challenges – here for us all. Continue Reading →

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2017 State of Patient Advocacy and the Alliance of Professional Health Advocates

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As we kick off 2017, let’s look at the past year in review. What is the status of this profession of health and patient advocacy?  How well is APHA serving the needs of patient-clients and its members?

We began 2016 with a similar reality check.  The bottom line was that our profession is growing, but not nearly fast enough!  The need for our services is so very much larger than the number of people to fill it. That status has not improved; in fact, the need is bigger than ever before.

In that same vein, but without including the more “ancient” history that post included, here are some stats for you to peruse this year, in hopes you’ll see the need to launch your own advocacy practice (if you haven’t already done so) – or expand its scope (if you are already in practice) – in order to be there for the vast numbers of patient-clients and caregivers who need us. Continue Reading →

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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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