“Why do people feel well served by you?” I asked him.
“Because I have a beeline into all the good doctors,” he replied. And when I asked him to explain further, he said it was because he knew the best doctors to recommend.
[Pause. Letting that sink in…]
In conversations with both long-time advocates, and lawyers, too… and honestly – what makes common sense – is that a patient advocate should never make a recommendation about a doctor.
Suppose you do make that recommendation – and the patient sees the doctor – and something goes terribly wrong. (Now – don’t tell me nothing’s going to go wrong. We all know better than that!) The fact that you were the professional who recommended that doctor will come back to bite you in the backside either as word-of-mouth that could destroy your reputation, or as a lawsuit, which won’t do much for your business or your reputation either.
Now suppose you recommend AGAINST a doctor. We’re not talking about two buddies having a conversation about a doctor here. You are a professional patient advocate and telling someone NOT to see a doctor is a professional recommendation – which could result in a lawsuit (libel, slander – I always forget which is which.) It makes no difference if the lawsuit isn’t warranted. It will cost you time, money and reputation regardless of the fairness of it.
What to do instead…
The best way to serve your clients is to develop lists of 2 or more doctors in each specialty area. When you know your patient needs to find a new doctor, you can recommend those on your list who meet the criteria (always more than one – 4 or 5 is best). Then have the patient or the caregiver choose which of the doctors they think is best for them. You can help them verbally with pros and cons, but you may even want to develop an official-looking statement that says they are choosing THAT doctor, and you have not coerced them into choosing any particular doctor.
How do you find the right doctors for your list? You talk to others about their experiences. And you always ALWAYS do a background check. Any doctor you recommend must have impeccable credentials. Further, you keep in mind that nice does not equal competent.
Providing a list to your client, then asking them to make the choice, does two things. First, it puts the power in the hands of the patient or caregiver – definitely a confidence builder and a better feeling on their part that they are (at least partially) controlling their care choices. Second, it keeps you from putting your advocacy work and reputation in jeopardy.
Agree? Disagree? Please share your opinion!
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