An Anniversary, Meltdowns, Blessings, and Fuel for Advocates

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Please indulge me today. I’m going to share a very personal experience I rarely think about anymore, in hopes it will propel some good advocacy.

Sometimes months go by when I barely give it any thought. Other times, like lately, it seems like everywhere I turn, I just can’t escape it. So here you go:

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Advocates Are Afraid to Do This – Until They Love to Do It

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Earlier this year we hosted one of our APHA Workshop weekends*, with about 30 individuals who are somewhere in the process of growing an advocacy practice.

The APHA Workshops were originally designed to support the BUSINESS of advocacy only. The idea was that most advocates have abundant skills and abilities to advocate – they’ve advocated for themselves and loved ones, and sometimes non-family patients for years. What they didn’t know was how to successfully start and run a sustainable business / practice to allow them to do their advocacy work.  For five years, we hosted those original workshops all over the country, and student-advocates provided feedback indicating they were worthwhile.

Until… about a year ago it became clear that there was one major piece in the teaching of the budding profession of advocacy that was missing, a piece that no one had really named yet. Those of us who are leaders in the profession could describe it, but we had trouble honing in on a concise description, or definition, or better yet, a single word that would allow us to communicate about it.

This became even clearer at this year’s first workshop, mentioned above, where we added a component to address that missing piece. Some attendees, those new to advocacy, struggled to solve the real life patient / caregiver problems we posed. Observing some of the struggle helped me figure it out….

So today I’m going to name it, describe it, and then ask YOU to provide examples. 

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Part IV: The Dirty Dozen Skills, Abilities, and Attributes of Successful Health and Patient Advocates and Care Managers

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And, finally, the fourth and last in our series of skills, abilities and attributes that all successful advocates and care managers must.

We’re wrapping up with 3 additional concepts that are important to the success all private advocacy and care management practices.  Yes – I know the total will be 16 (and we promised only a dirty dozen!) – see Part I about my inability to count 🙂 )

Which of these describe you and your abilities?  Which of them do not?  Where do you go from here?

Do your own assessment! 

 

14.  Never forget  your Allegiance. Allegiance is the foundation of a private, independent advocate’s or care manager’s work; that is – because the patient or caregiver (or someone else whose sole allegiance is to the patient) hires you, your entire focus is on what’s best for him or her.

That is the one major distinction between private, independent professionals and those who work for an organization that profits from the healthcare system. Hospital advocates, insurance advocates – their allegiance is to the companies and systems they work for. While their hearts may be in the right place, and patients may THINK they are being helped, these system-paid advocates are too often, even frustrating to them, unable to offer the best help.

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Part II: The Dirty Dozen Skills, Abilities, and Attributes of Successful Health and Patient Advocates and Care Managers

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Yes, Part II, as promised in our first installment last week when we began with the first four attributes of successful advocates.

Find Part I of the Dirty Dozen.

Which of these describe you and your abilities?  Which of them don’t?  Where do you go from here? Do your own assessment! 

 

Part II:  Abilities of Success Health/Patient Advocates and Care Managers

5. Health and patient advocates and care managers have an intimate understanding of the healthcare system. 

Important – I do not mean you must understand medicine. In fact, you really don’t need to understand medicine – as in diagnosis or treatment – to be successful. That’s why you don’t need to be a doctor or nurse or have another clinical background to build a successful advocacy practice. Successful advocacy is about understanding THE SYSTEM, not medicine.

You must understand how to work the system to get your client what she needs. That may mean you know the least expensive MRI locations, or it may mean you know how to get an appointment with Dr. Specialist.  It may mean you know how to work with insurance reps to get a claim approved, or it may mean you know how to find better pricing for Mrs. Smith’s prescription drugs. Maybe you need how to access a hospital’s chargemaster, or line up DRGs, CPTs, and RVUs.

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The Birdcage: How to Ruin a First Impression

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Many readers know that my husband and I moved last year to Florida from Upstate NY, where – yes, thank you! – we have truly enjoyed this winter. No shoveling, mostly mild temperatures, lots of sun, and golf! – a big change from the past many winters.

So here in our new home in Florida we’ve decided to bring some of the outdoors in. Or maybe we’re going to take some of our indoors out. Whichever way you look at it, we’re getting ready to build a “birdcage,” a screened room which will be attached to the back of our house.

We began by soliciting estimates from four different birdcage builders, inviting them over to discuss our project.

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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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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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Revisiting the Question: Advocate and Proxy, Too? Making Decisions for Clients

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Two years ago we asked whether a health/patient advocate can also be a decision-maker for her client in the form of being a healthcare proxy (the patient-designated person who makes end-of-life decisions for the patient, based on wishes the patient has legally documented). Since the ethics and standards of the original advocate role very specifically state that an advocate WILL NOT and CAN NOT make decisions for a client, would the new role of proxy create a conflict-of-interest?

The scenario shared was that “Gwen” had been Mrs. Smith’s advocate for a long period of time and they had developed a close relationship. Mrs. Smith, at the age of 90, wanted Gwen to be her healthcare proxy to help determine (if necessary) when it was time to allow Mrs. Smith to die, instead of conceding to the healthcare system’s attempts to keep her alive at all costs.

Could those two roles be performed by the same person? We didn’t answer the question. Instead, we used the opportunity to develop a best practice by asking for input and opinions from those in practice at the time. The question:

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