Doctor Recommendations – Do You? Should You?

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I was more than a little surprised in a conversation this week with an advocate who is not (yet) a member of AdvoConnection.  OK. That’s putting it mildly. I was actually stunned.

“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.

Here’s why:

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Preparing Patients for Primary Care Troubles

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Good primary care physicians are becoming harder and harder to find.

You may not have noticed it yet, but I predict that a year from now we’ll find it almost impossible to find primary care doctors who are willing to take on new patients – at least any primary care doctor worth seeing won’t be doing so.

Smart patients AND their advocates know that today is THE day to be sure they have good relationships established with primary care doctors.

Why? Two major reasons:

First comes the fact that medical students spend some time in school, then choose their specialty area.  They contrast the excitement of surgery or saving a heart patient’s life, with the sniffly noses and broken legs of primary care. Then they figure out that as a surgeon or neurosurgeon,

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Patients’ Advocates in Hospitals – Going to the Line

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Updated March 2017

From time to time I hear from a patient who complains about a situation that occurred during a hospital stay – usually the spouse or child of a hospital patient.

The great majority of those notes say, “I spoke to the patient advocate in the hospital but they couldn’t do anything for me!”

When I reply, I explain that the hospital patient advocate works for the hospital – not for the patient. Hospital patient advocates usually report to the legal/risk management department in the hospital and get their paychecks from the hospital.  They help when they can, but the hospital gives them a line they just can’t cross.

That’s the fact I know.  And a couple of times I have met hospital “Patient Relations” people.  But until this week, I had never had occasion to try to work with them to help a patient.

This week’s hospital complaint email came from Donna (name is changed) who was a volunteer kidney donor to a friend – not even a relative – just a good friend.  She was flown from her home in another state to New York Presbyterian – Columbia late last summer, completed the surgery, and returned home.  Since then she has had a number of complications, she has been out of work, and she has been in pain.

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The Myth of Patient Advocacy Certification

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This post, originally written in January 2011, was accurate at the time; there was no universally recognized patient advocacy certification.

That changed in early 2018. Find updated information at the end of the post.

(Updated: May 2019)

Not a week goes by that someone doesn’t write to me asking about patient advocacy certification.  It’s confusing, because they read that there are courses that will help them become certified, and then they find other pieces I have written about the lack of a certification system.

So it’s time to clarify: There is a difference between earning a certificate – and being certified, even if Merriam Webster might tell you those two concepts are related.

“To be certified” carries with it an assumption that there is some sort of national (even international) standard set of skills, recognition, accreditation, or competencies and criteria that someone has met,developed or earned.  As if a national body of some sort has said “Yes – this person meets this high standard of education and capability, so we are blessing him or her with our certification.” “To be certified” may even mean to some people that some sort of governmental recognition in the form of a license or listing has taken place.

But as of 2011, there are no governments, nor nationally respected, nor generally accepted groups that have determined a group of standards, nor benchmarks, nor capabilities that supply a certification that is universally recognized. And that is the key:  none are universally recognized.

No such a certification exists – yet.*

The confusion comes from the fact… Continue Reading →

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Enough is Enough! Helping Elderly Patients Make Decisions

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One of our AdvoConnection members, Ken Schueler, shared a favorite article of his, published in JAMA a couple of years ago, and a good reminder of one of our roles as patient advocates.  Written by Dr. Jennifer M. Soyke, it tells about an elderly patient named Lisa who passed away from Genug Syndrome.

(Unfortunately, JAMA requires a subscription to read this piece in its entirety, so please forgive paraphrasing here – but I think you’ll get the point…)

Never heard of Genug Syndrome?  You won’t find it in the medical literature.

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