An Advocate’s Guide to CYA

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One of the simplest best practices for patient advocates is also the one with the fuzziest line. Sometimes it can be difficult to know at what point that fuzzy line will be crossed, and since crossing it can lead to problems for a client, put a private advocate out of business, or even result in a lawsuit against the advocate, we need clearer definition to be sure we C our own As (that is, CYA = Cover Your A**.)

Let me explain.

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They’re Not Us. We’re Not Them. The Difference Is Defined by Consequences.

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Those of us who stay on top of patient advocacy-related news got a jolt from this headline, “Patient Advocacy Groups Rake In Donations From Pharma.” Just the jolt itself suggests that a few clarifications need to be made about our work as independent, private patient advocates.

This is a topic I have written about several times in the past, but because it has big ripple effects, and because some of the people you connect with may be confused, you’ll need to clarify for them, so it bears repeating.

It’s about allegiance. And it’s classified in the same sphere of conversations and objections as these:

But the hospital has a patient advocate and I can talk to her for free. So why should I pay you?

I got a flyer in the mail from my insurance company and they offered a patient advocate to help me for free! So why should I pay you?

Anyone who has begun marketing a private advocacy practice has heard these sorts of objections. Like all roadblocks found in the healthcare system, I’m going to suggest you walk through the right answers with them, because it applies in all cases.

This is the way to overcome their objections.

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My Person! My People! Building Partnerships, Expanding Your Practice

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Are you a TV watcher?  I am. Big time. I love TV.  And because of that, more often than I care to admit, I draw inspiration from TV shows and characters. (As a side confession here, we’ve been binge-watching The West Wing, and have found that comparing it to today’s presidential politics is like marrying whiplash to an out-of-body experience. Right? But I digress….)

Today we’re going to draw inspiration from three very different, very diverse TV personalities or characters:  weatherman Al Roker from the Today Show, Elmo from Sesame Street, and Meredith Gray of Gray’s Anatomy.

Stay tuned… we’ll return to them in a moment after a word from…

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Saying No and Refusing to Serve: How to Draw That Line

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If we have learned anything about ourselves in the past 10 days, it’s that there are some people in this world we will never be able to understand or condone. Between the skirmishes in Charlottesville, VA, and the killings in Barcelona and elsewhere; I am reminded that I will NEVER understand hate. I will NEVER condone racism, or neo-nazi-ism, or jihad, or white supremacy – or killing. Period.

As I watched it all unfold through the news, I asked myself, What would I do if one of those people whose attitudes and opinions I find so repugnant asked me to be their advocate?

The answer came easily. I would say no. 

I’m guessing that most of you would want to say NO, too – but would not know how to do so. So I am providing you here with justification and tactics to effectively, legally, and ethically draw a line between who we will, and who we won’t, provide advocacy services to.

Who we WILL work with – is fairly easy.  We’ll serve almost anyone who needs our skill set, in a geography we can serve, who is willing to sign our contract, who can afford to pay us to do that work.

Who we WON’T or DON’T WANT to work with – is more complex, in particular because of our Code of Ethics and Professional Standards, and possibly because of the law.

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What Gator Head Windchimes Can Teach Us About a Healthy Advocacy Practice

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My husband and I moved 14 months ago to Florida. Since then, each time I’ve been on the highway, I’ve seen billboards which have fascinated me. They advertise the Florida Citrus Centers which are roadside tourist stops where you can buy (yes, you guessed it) – oranges, grapefruit, limes and other fruit, plus other Florida-related souvenirs.

But until last week, I had never stopped at one of the Citrus Centers, despite a 14 month curiosity…

The curiosity is right there on that billboard photo above: Gator Head Wind Chimes. What on earth would an alligator head wind chime look like? Would it be one alligator head with wind chimes hanging off it? Or would it be a big circle with alligator heads hanging from it, knocking against each other to create the “chime”? (clunk, clunk, clunk)

Then, of course, because my family members are all a little whacky, with great senses of humor, I pictured my brother-in-law opening one of these monstrosities for Christmas… Just thinking about it made me laugh out loud! I had to get one!

Last week my husband and I left for our vacation, driving north to visit family and friends. As soon as we hit the highway, we saw the first of those billboards….

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