As announced to AdvoConnection’s members last week, we have been working on a prescribed process for advocates who find it necessary to terminate their work with a client – in effect, to “divorce” that client, professionally, legally, and with the least amount of difficulty for both parties. (Members will find access to that protocol in this coming week’s Monday Member Mail.)
One step in the process is the recommendation about sharing the notes you’ve kept with the client you’re divorcing, and the question about whether or not you, as the professional patient advocate, should be keeping those notes after you have terminated the relationship with the client, and if so, for what period of time.
(Please note – I’m talking about the notes and records YOU keep – not medical records which are being kept by their medical providers. You may choose to keep those, too – but here we focus only on your own notes.)
So that’s the question – how long, if at all, should private health advocates keep those notes?
Last week’s post about the Paralysis of Analysis – the situation that many almost-professional private patient advocates find themselves in – those who hesitate to take that last step – the step of reaching out to new people and asking for payment for their services – the switch from volunteer (I can do this, I’ve done it dozens of times before) to paid professional, in business, make no excuses, doin’ it for a living paid patient advocacy….
It really struck a nerve.
One advocate wrote and asked whether I’d been reading her diary. Another said she felt like Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver (“You talkin’ to ME?”) A dozen posts in the AdvoConnection Forum (undoubtedly representing dozens of others who read those posts but didn’t comment themselves) indicated that yes – guilty as charged – they just can’t do it.
What’s “do it”? They just can’t ask for money. They’ve been helping others for free for years, either loved ones or friends – and they hesitate to make that leap from volunteer to paid professional.
I understand that! It’s hard to ask for money in the same ways it’s hard to toot your own horn by telling the world about your successes. Asking for money for your professional expertise is a lot like bragging – and of course – as we were raised, we were all told not to brag! This is particularly true for women, those of us who have grown up in a society where our contributions and hard work have often been undervalued. (I note that none of the emails or Forum posts came from men…. )
So how is it that some advocates HAVE been able to make the leap successfully? What do they know, and what are they doing – and doing well – that others just can’t bring themselves to do?
Announcing the 2012 winner* of the Schueler Patient Advocacy Compass Award…
Elisabeth Russell of Patient Navigator in Vienna, Virginia. Congratulations Elisabeth!
Elisabeth was the unanimous choice of the selection committee – although – the choice was not an easy one to make. All applicants were outstanding examples of excellence in their service to their clients. Competition was stiff. There were no wrong choices.
A few excerpts from Elisabeth’s application:
Patient-empowerment is the reason I wrote the series of “Roadmaps” that is available on my website. They are self-contained guides in the areas of Medical Management, Advocacy and Patient Education, Resources Available to You, and Insurance. Each is richly sourced to launch a client on his/her way to becoming their own best advocate.
Mentoring others who are considering advocacy as a profession:
Over the past five years, I have answered hundreds of inquiries from individuals hoping to become patient navigators or advocates… I quickly saw from all of the inquiries I receive that I needed to harness the wide range of experience, expertise and passion that folks were sharing with me. In 2009, I created a Linked-In “Patient Navigator” professional networking group. The group now has 792 members and is going strong.
These, among other attributes that were so important to Ken Schueler, and the profession of patient advocacy, were some of the reasons the committee chose Elisabeth for this year’s honor.
So what does Elisabeth win? To further her commitment to her clients and growing her business, her Premium membership in AdvoConnection will be extended an extra year, she will have the right to use the winner’s logo in her marketing, and we will issue press releases to her local media to advise them of her award.
In less than one week, we will be announcing the winner of this year’s Schueler Patient Advocacy Compass Award. This is a big deal – and not just for the winner, who will find some perks that go along with the award.
It’s a big deal to you, too, because in many ways, the stories our applicants told, and the questions they were asked to address, are what defines excellence in patient and health advocacy. In other words – these attributes, based on Ken Schueler’s work, goals and ideals define what we consider to be a top-notch, client-life-enhancing advocate. The candidates’ demonstrations of four of the six goals is what determines the winner.
Let me explain. The six attributes are:
Empowerment ( Helping patient-clients make their best choices by empowering them with the information they need to make fully-informed decisions for themselves)
Inclusion ( Recognition that patient-clients of all ages, races, ethnicity, sexual orientation or socio-economic status have a right to engage with a health or patient advocate or navigator.)
Integrative, Evidence-Based Approach ( Providing materials and research to the Nominee’s patient-clients that are part of the published literature, and, where appropriate, integrative in nature (combination of traditional, complementary and/or alternative).
Continuous Learning (Improvement of Nominee’s own skills, continuing education, taking courses, volunteerism—activities undertaken to expand capabilities and knowledge in a new direction.)
Sharing and Mentoring (Helping other advocates and navigators improve their knowledge of the field and/or expand their capabilities.)
Community Visibility (Creating awareness of health and patient advocacy by speaking to groups, appearing in the press, participating in social media—activities focused on being an ambassador for the profession.)
In the reviews of the applications for this year’s award, each of the committee members (including me) made phone calls to the references provided by the applicant-candidates. Those calls left such an impression on me! The superlatives used by the clients I called – the true appreciation and the strong bonds built by some of our candidates and their clients were heart-warming and awe-inspiring.
A few points to share that repeated themselves – aspects of the work that the best candidates demonstrated:
I’ll confess that I’m not a big football fan. And I’m certainly not a big fan of sports metaphors (which actually drive me crazy in business because I think they are exclusionary – not everyone understands them.)
But I am a fan of learning good business lessons from the experiences we have and the activities that are going on around us. And the lessons we can pull from the Superbowl are, well… super. So please forgive the sports metaphors for the moment, and see what you can learn:
1. The Superbowl is about excellence. Only the top two teams in any given year are invited to play in the Superbowl. Beyond the fact that they have won so many games, they are also talked about in the most glowing terms. As advocates and navigators, we can strive for that same high regard by performing our services with excellence so that those we work about talk about us in those kinds of glowing terms, too.
2. The Superbowl is about branding, outreach, and promotion. Even if you aren’t a fan of one of the Superbowl teams, you know who they are, what cities they are from, and other assorted details, simply because you can’t miss them. No matter what time of the year it is, if someone talks about pro football, they mention the Superbowl, too. The lesson from this is very clear. Let your potential clients think of you anytime someone mentions medical challenges or illness.
3. The Superbowl is about outcomes and bragging rights. Every pro football team aspires to not only make it to the Superbowl, but to win it, too. There are a number of ways we strive to “win” as advocates and navigators. One is that we can “win” a client when they decide to work with us. But of even more value is the “win” of helping that client find improved medical outcomes (or money outcomes) because we did our work well. Wins mean bragging rights – and that tells us to remember to ask for testimonials and endorsements, too.
4. The Superbowl is about teamwork. Individuals don’t play in the Superbowl – teams do. Those teams are comprised of individuals who work well together, but none could ever be there if “together” wasn’t a part of the mix. As advocates and navigators, even if we are sole practitioners, there are still many reasons to view our work in teams: with our clients, their providers, employees, contractors, advisors/resources, and others. There is strength in that team approach.
5. The Superbowl is about inclusion. While the game itself is comprised of just those two teams, the event tries to include everyone. Rare is the Superbowl conversation that doesn’t also mention the commercials. Those entertaining commercials bring in a whole new set of viewers and fans – people who otherwise would never consider tuning in. As advocates, we strive to get our messages in front of other audiences, too. How can we do that? By providing something they are interested in – even if it’s not our core business. A hospital-bedside advocate could give a talk about staying safe in the hospital. A medical billing advocate might blog about the effects of healthcare reform…. The Lesson: Be inclusive of new audiences.
6. The Superbowl is about coaching. None of us will succeed without listening, learning from and engaging with those who can help us. Anyone who tries to do this work without staying up on the practice will not succeed in the long run. This new career of patient advocacy and navigation changes dramatically, sometimes week-to-week, at a minimum month-to-month…. always. Unless you subscribe to an organization that will keep track of changes, or take courses or classes to grow your capabilities, you’ll find yourself left behind from this fast-moving service career.
7. The Superbowl is about coopetition. Most of us think that the Superbowl is a competitive game that will have a clear winner. And it is. But the reason it is so popular, so infused in the American psyche, is because it is coopetive. Coordinating this event year after year is THE fulltime job of perhaps thousands of people, ranging from those who are involved in the game itself, to those who sell or produce the commercials, to those who must prepare and protect the venue, to those who write about it, or keep the history of it. Those folks compete with others, of course. But it’s the fact that they all cooperate that makes it all work.
8. The Superbowl drives us to alternatives. Honestly, I get sick of the hype. And while I usually like to watch NBC, this year, I have changed the channel because, frankly, I get sick of so much of life being about the Superbowl. The lesson in there for us advocates is: don’t be overbearing. When it comes to your own promotion or interest, learn where the boundaries are so your message will get across, but you won’t be dismissed by those who are tired of hearing about your work.
9. The Superbowl is about analysis. In any business – whether it’s the Superbowl or patient advocacy – assessing what worked, what didn’t, strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures, is what shepherds us into the future. Strengths and successes give us the opportunity to showcase and promote our work, plus the sense of satisfaction. We can assess weaknesses and failures to determine which parts of our work need to be changed or at least adjusted, perhaps dropped, or even reinforced. Every client interface, every marketing outreach, and other aspects of our business, too, provides an opportunity for analysis.
Bottom line – whether or not you care one wit about watching the Superbowl – or sports metaphors – there are lessons we can take away and apply to our work as health and patient advocates and navigators.
I came up with 9 lessons – can you suggest #10? Please add your lesson in the comments section. (Giants? or Patriots?)