Bring It On! Forum Fireworks Erupt Again

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fireworksOne of the most valuable resources any profession has is access to other people who are also invested in the interests of that profession.  The internet and social media, of course, provide an opportunity to access this valuable resource on a global scale.

… Which means that participants, including professionals and the people who are striving to join their professional ranks, come from a variety of backgrounds and attitudes, environments, personalities and life views.

Now, mix that together with a specific profession – patient advocacy – where its proponents are highly passionate about their work.  Add a dash of mixed opinions, and a pinch of “the rules aren’t yet written”, and what do we get?

A recipe for fireworks!  Oh yes we do.  And oh yes – we’ve experienced fireworks again in the AdvoConnection / Alliance Forum.

This is actually (only) the second time in the three years since we revved up the Fourm that the fireworks have gotten out of hand.  The first time around, we looked at the question of Who Is Qualified to Be a Patient Advocate?  It should be noted that those fireworks didn’t really accomplish much since that very question is still being debated, even today.

This time around, it began with a simple request by a new, already-in-business advocate who wanted to know whether anyone thought it was a good idea to establish a monthly membership approach to her practice, and if so, how could the pricing structure be determined?

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An Advocate’s Allegiance Makes All the Difference

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allegianceJust in the past week alone, I’ve been asked three times why someone would hire a private patient advocate when there are so many other forms of help available.

What other forms would those be?  A variety:

  • hospital patients can call on the hospital’s patient advocate for help
  • cancer patients find navigators to help them through treatment
  • insurance customers can call their customer service rep, or even an insurance company patient advocate
  • a newly diagnosed patient can often find that large disease advocacy organizations, like the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society or the American Diabetes Association, will provide an advocate to help them sort out questions they may have

Yes – those are all resources patients have when they need assistance.  And to some extent, patients may find the answers they seek with any of them.

But there is something each one is lacking, and that one thing can mean the difference between life and death, the difference between quality of life or lack thereof, or the difference between solvency and bankruptcy.

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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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