If I Could File a Lawsuit, I Would

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blindfoldI’m really angry at the investment firm Morgan Stanley – really angry.  I have had to deal with them since my father died, trying to manage and move a small IRA my sisters and I inherited, and they have done their utmost to make that impossible.

I’ve told the story at my About.com blog because the bottom line is – if there was such a thing as a financial services advocate, I would hire him or her.  That’s a great lesson for patients, with similar concepts applied to their medical care, and will hopefully make some of your phones ring, too.

But I’m so angry and frustrated by my experience with Morgan Stanley, that if there was such a thing as filing a lawsuit over their behavior, I would file one. Within this experience are some lessons for advocates, how we handle customer service, and how we keep ourselves from being sued.

You can read some of the story here. I’ve listed some of their transgressions, but not the worst ones. In that About.com post, I didn’t talk about the contracts they insisted I sign – “immediately or we’ll miss the deadline!” – in which they had already checked off boxes that made choices I would never make. Fine print, intended to trick me? Or the fact that I almost had to pay penalties because Dad had not taken a minimum distribution for 2012 – a fact pointed out to me in the 11th hour – a question I never would have known to ask.

I’m so angry, in fact, that I’m writing about them publicly and naming names. I’ve threatened to report them to the SEC. You don’t EVER want your clients to become so angry at you.

At the root of my anger is, that just like your clients and potential clients, I don’t know what I don’t know, and Morgan Stanley is treating me like a mushroom – keeping me in the dark and feeding me, well, animal waste.

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It’s Fair to Say “I Don’t Know”

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timeoutNobody can ever be expected to know everything about everything at the moment they need to know it. Yet, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about medical providers – and health advocates, too – it is that there is a major reluctance to say “I don’t know.” It’s as if the fact that they don’t know something reflects on their ability to be useful. As if they are “less” because the answer isn’t right there in the front of their brains and rolling off their tongues.

I just don’t think that’s true or fair.

Whether it’s the psychology of dealing with patient-clients, or the databanks of information about any specific disease, to the ability to predict an outcome, to the “facts” of health and medicine (remember when margarine was better for you than butter?), the amount and nature of knowledge changes from minute-to-minute to day-to-day to year-to-year. 

There is no one in this world that can know everything or have every answer at any given moment. Therefore, it’s absolutely fair to say, “I don’t know,” or “I’m not sure,” as long as it is followed by, “But I’ll try to get the answer for you,” or “But we can look that up together,”  or some other promise to acquire the information.

Yet, I have watched and listened to providers (the most arrogant of them) give a half-answer, or a non-answer, or even an invented answer, rather than admit they aren’t up-to-date on something.  You have, too.

Further, I’ve heard from advocates who are afraid to pull the trigger to go into business because they are afraid they don’t know as much as they think they should know. (There is a good chance they’ll never know enough – because their personal bars are set so high that their goals will be unattainable.) Continue Reading →

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Start and Grow Your Independent, Private Advocacy Practice – Coming Soon!

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Coming Soon!

I’m happy to announce that my next book is now in the hands of the publisher, in the final stages of being edited, prepped and printed:

The Health Advocate’s Start and Grow Your Own Practice Handbook – is on its way.

Pre-orders are now available (through October 1.)
($10 off the total of cover price, plus shipping and handling).
Pre-ordered books will be mailed on or before November 1.

It’s a step-by-step guide, covering soup to nuts, for starting a one person, solo practice or a partnership of two or more people.  If your intent is to start up a multi-national corporation, then no – this book isn’t going to do that for you.  But if you have some good advocacy experience (navigation, billing, therapy, mediation or others) and you wish to start your own practice, for-profit or non-profit, then this book can get you there.  It includes details for advocates in both the United States and Canada.

And – the book comes with a bonus!  (See below)

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The Health Advocate’s Olympics

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Like many of you, I have been glued to the Olympics for more than a week.  I stay up very late every night (and have to drag myself out of bed in the morning!) to watch athletes who can twist or turn or propel their bodies in ways that seem practically inhuman.  A mix of awe, pride, respect and, when it comes to Chinese badminton players, incredulity.

Watching the athletes and the competitions, I realized there are some metaphorical similarities between what they do, and what we, the pioneers of the profession of private health advocacy, are working to accomplish, as follows:

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Client Discussions: Where Do Spirituality and Religion Come In?

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My travels over the past two weeks have ultimately taken me to Florida where I’ll be staying for awhile to spend time with my dad.  It’s the latest in many, many visits, which I mention only because that means I have gotten to know many of Dad’s friends over the years, too. In fact, I’ve gotten to know a handful of them very well, so that I actually seek them out once I get here to be sure I have the opportunity to spend some time with them.

One such friend is a gentleman I’ll call Jim, who lives next door to Dad. A retired lawyer, Jim has now become a Eucharistic Minister who calls on many sick people and leads services on a Sunday morning.  He is well-respected and admired by so many, a man who balances his sense of fairness with his religion and spirituality. He puts a great deal of effort into making sure that anyone who would like to attend his services, regardless of their religious affiliation, is welcome to do so.

The three of us enjoyed brunch together today, and as it frequently does, the conversation turned to how life experiences were affected by our spirituality, the meshing (or repelling) of religion and politics, other people’s experiences as seen through a spiritual lens, and more…. Since Dad and Jim both live in a senior transitional-type community, where friends are often undergoing medical treatment, and where too many friends pass away, some of the discussion centered on healthcare and spirituality.

Midway through this morning’s conversation I realized (duh!) that perhaps spirituality is a topic advocates should be addressing with their clients. Considering the tendency of most human beings, whether or not they are religious (part of a specific religion), to turn to prayer and pastoral support when they are faced with a health crisis (their own, or a loved one’s), it seems that at least discussing spiritual needs with clients could be useful in at least three ways: Continue Reading →

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