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:
Anticipation has paid off in a big way. Understanding what APHA members want and need, combined with the knowledge of what the organization wants and needs, has created a win-win situation for us all.
Because it’s proactive. It showcases the investment we have made in our members. We built the new site predicting how it will be used, by answering questions such as: Will members be most interested in this information, or that information? Will they look here for it, or there for it? If I were an advocate, what would I need to get started in my own practice? How can I combine all this great information with some marketing and SEO, too?
We’ve surveyed. We’ve asked individuals for their opinions. We even did a small usability study to help us build a site that is – well – usable!
Bottom line: We ANTICIPATED what members would want and need, and then used that as the platform to build the new site.
So how does this translate to your work with patient-clients and their families?
We’ve made the case here many times that one of the most important reasons someone hires an independent advocate is because patients don’t know what they don’t know. They realize sometime during their journey through the system that they aren’t getting the help they need. Coupled with their inability to get it because they don’t have the same goals as the system, they just can’t translate their needs into something the system willingly makes available. So they turn to an independent expert – the advocate – to help them.
As their advocates, it’s up to us to ANTICIPATE those needs, and to help them make the system work for them. When we do so, it creates success for us, too.
- Your client will be discharged from the hospital tomorrow. Do you wait for him to be discharged, then step in when he asks for help? Or do you anticipate that he will need transportation home, new prescriptions filled, follow-up doctor appointments will need to be made, and more – then manage his expectations about those tasks, and suggest you can be the person who will take care of them for him?
- Your client will be discharged from the hospital tomorrow. Do you wait for him to get his hospital bills, which will surely be huge and upsetting? Or do you alert him a few days after he gets home, talk about what he might expect, then assure him that you’ll be there to help sort them and manage them once they arrive?
None of this will seem like a great revelation to many of you. This is what you do every day. You’ve learned to anticipate your clients’ needs and to manage their expectations….
But there’s also a recipe in here for a secret sauce…
… for taking the concept a step further to create an even better experience for your clients and more success for you. That is, that you monitor changes and updates in the system and then alert your clients appropriately as needed.
That extra step can make an enormous difference, best described using examples:
- By law, health insurance companies are allowed to move Medicare patients into Medicare Advantage programs with no warning. If the insured patient doesn’t opt-out of that program, then he or she is stuck with it – and may not know they have been moved. This too often causes them to get treatment from an out-of-network provider, leaving them with steep medical bills. Most clients have no idea this is true! If you, as the advocate, know this information, you can alert your Medicare-aged clients to look out for the possibility ahead of time.
- A PSA test (PSA = Prostate Specific Antigen) determines the possibility that a man is developing prostate cancer. Your client is told by his primary care physician that he needs to begin getting PSA tests annually, despite the fact that your client has no family history of cancer. While that might have been current advice even in 2010, it is no longer advised as it used to be, based on studies, and published by the NIH. If you, as the advocate, know this is true, you can alert your client that he needs to get a second opinion about when, or how often, he should be screened with a PSA.
- The easiest example and one that is well-known to most advocates, is the advent of hospitals’ use of “observation status” to stick patients with bills when they aren’t officially admitted.
Among our best and most effective advocates, this proactive approach, too, is a consistent hallmark of their work. They stay on top of changes in the system, both medical and financial – OR – they know to look for this information in order to better serve their clients.
This up-to-date information is also highly useful for marketing your practice. Featuring links to news stories, then helping subscribers translate how that might affect them can be a great way to engender their trust and eventually contract with them as clients.
So, how can you stay up-to-the-minute with this kind of news? Aha! Back to where I began this post… our APHA anticipation of YOUR needs!
Among the jewels of our new website are our Client Services Centers – three centers (Care, Cost, and Other) that can help you stay up to date. Further, these are topics that are discussed in our APHA Connect! site – great networking among members on these kinds of topics. Members are invited to add to the library of information as they become aware of it, and resources are offered to help members stay on top of news as it can affect patient-clients.
The secret sauce to the success of your practice will be your ability to anticipate what your clients need, and then to be so well-informed that you protect them from problems in their journey they never could have anticipated themselves.
… even if you never give another thought to ketchup or Carly Simon. 🙂
Why not take a tour of our new APHA Membership website?
- Link to the tour of a PACE Membership (Patient Advocate Career Exploration)
- Link to the tour of a Premium Membership (a step up, preparation for, and a listing in the AdvoConnection Directory)
And then, why don’t you join us?