The Most Expensive Business to Start

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It’s entirely possible to start a new business on a shoestring. We know this, because every publication worth the paper or website it’s published on tells us so:  Forbes, USA Today, Entrepreneur, all of them.

It requires time, grit, determination, attention to detail, great word-of-mouth – oh – and money! More about this in a minute.

The truth is – the concept of starting a business on a shoestring depends on the size of your shoes and therefore, the length and strength of their laces. It certainly doesn’t hurt if they are made of solid-gold, and you can sell them for your seed money.

If you hear a sarcastic edge in this post, it’s for good reason. It’s born of frustration, the feeling that I’m shouting into an empty cave.  I’ve just heard from one more person who has closed up her advocacy practice because she can’t afford it anymore; this on the heels of a conversation last week with one of our APHA Mentors who asked me, “Why do people think they can start an advocacy practice with no investment? Why do they think they can do it for free?”

Good questions. GREAT questions. And sadly, representative of too much reality and too much failure. And, for today, it means I’m going to try to provide this reality check one more time.

Let’s look at that shoestring for a minute. 

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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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What Health Advocacy Is, What It Isn’t, and Why Most of It Can’t Be Taught

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One of the websites offered by APHA is a listing of all advocacy educational programs (that we know about).  There are programs offered by colleges and universities, private programs, organizational programs, mentors, and more. Some require in-person attendance, some are offered online. Their quality varies, and their results vary….

Often I hear from someone who tells me they have looked over the available programs, but can’t find what they need. What they are looking for doesn’t seem to exist. Or, here is what they want to learn, and will I tell them whether such-and-such a program will teach them that?

Typically what they want to know boils down to this:  Which program will give them the formula for success?  Which one will provide the protocols, and the processes, and the check-off list of things to do?  Which one is the magic, silver bullet that will shift them from employment today, to successful self-employment as an advocate tomorrow?

To which I answer:  ALL of them. And NONE of them.

Here is the problem:  for most of those who ask, they really don’t get what independent advocacy is. They have this idea in their heads that it’s that magical world where they will get to be the advocates they want to be – because they are. “I’ve been an advocate all my life; now I just want to get paid for it,” they tell me. “My hospital won’t let me tell patients what they really need to know, so if I do this on my own, I can change that.” Or other variations on those themes.

Here’s the point I think they are missing:  Continue Reading →

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Channeling Mary Kay

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I heard from a gentleman this week who represents many of you. Specifically, he was trying to decide whether to pursue becoming an independent patient advocate – or not – because he wasn’t sure if he knew enough to be able to handle every client situation that comes his way.

He wanted a pep talk. He wanted me to convince him he knows enough.

Yes, it was time to invoke one of my favorite quotations, provided to us by Mary Kay Ash (presumably when she wasn’t out washing her pink Cadillac)

“If you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, you’re right.”

The truth is – it’s not really that simple. In fairness, self-doubt about the ability to do anything new plagues all of us. Whether it was your first job babysitting or bagging groceries, or you’re changing careers at mid-life, or even starting up an encore career at age 60+…  you’re putting yourself out there, you’re testing your own mettle, and you’re taking a risk. The very definition of risk taking means it could go badly. 

But something about his question quite bothered me. It noodled around in my head for a little while, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized he had asked the wrong question.

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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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It’s That Time of the Year – Income Taxes! for You and Your Clients

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Nothing thought provoking or brain-straining in this week’s post. Instead you may want to bookmark it (favorite it) and come back to it when it’s time to do your taxes, or print it or send a link to clients and former clients to help them with theirs…

Yes – it’s time to look at preparing our income tax statements for Uncle Sam (or even Justin Trudeau!) How does our paid work affect our taxes or our clients’?

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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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What the Presidential Election Results Mean for Patient Advocates

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When President Barack Obama ran for office in 2008, healthcare reform was already an enormous and contentious topic.

In those days, I was invited to speak to dozens of groups of patients and caregivers to help audiences sort out the issues that comprised healthcare reform so they could, on their own, decide which aspects (if any) were important to them. From the concept of “universal” healthcare through a public option, to coverage for pre-existing conditions, to portability, tort reform, free vaccinations to develop “herd immunity,” and many more, we looked at the whole of the topic as objectively as possible.

Before I started each talk, I would challenge audiences to figure out which side I was on by the time we were finished – reform? or no reform? It gave me great satisfaction that a show of hands at the end usually resulted in about a 50-50 split, demonstrating as much neutrality as I had been able to muster. It was somewhat surprising, because I was very much in favor of reform and truly not objective about the subject at all.

What I never mentioned to any of my audiences was this: that the bottom line for patient advocates was that healthcare reform was, simply, job security.

The reason: no matter what became of healthcare reform (and, of course, history tells us it became Obamacare, AKA the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or the ACA) – no matter what decisions became the law of the land, Americans were going to be confused by it all. They would be confused about costs, access, costs, access, access, and of course, costs, all of which could have huge detrimental effects on their health and care.

The more confused they became, the more they would need a health or patient advocate to help out.

Thus, job security.

That brings us to the 2016 presidential race, and victory for the candidate who said he will work to repeal the ACA.

No matter what your feelings about the outcome of last week’s presidential election, there are a few things advocates can take to the bank:

  • The healthcare system will go into further upheaval as the ACA is dismantled.
  • Patients and caregivers will find themselves more confused and frustrated than they have ever been.
  • The moneymakers in the system will seek new ways to maintain and grow their own profits, shifting and being shifty, making it even more difficult for patients to get the care they need at a cost they can afford.
  • The demand for private, independent advocates will grow – even more – and there won’t be enough advocates to help the patients and caregivers who need them.
  • Yes – all this adds up to even more job security.

We can’t anticipate exactly what changes will be made, but that doesn’t really matter. People are scared and confused now – today – because they just don’t know what to expect. They didn’t know before the election and they feel even less in control now. Even through the ACA, pricing has gone up in most states, and people feel like they are getting less and less for their money. Their confusion and frustration (and anger) is going from bad to worse.

They need help. They want help.

If you are absolutely serious about growing a successful advocacy practice, then NOW is the time to prepare. There will be no better time in history to establish your practice (if you haven’t already) and to expand it (if you’re already in business.)

Here’s how.

If you are just getting started:

If you’ve been in business for awhile:

For all professional advocates:

riper

What are you waiting for?

LEARN ABOUT APHA MEMBERSHIP | FIND MORE REASONS PATIENTS NEED ADVOCATES

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