Your Independent Advocacy or Care Management Practice in a Time of Coronavirus / COVID-19

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This post updated March 21, 2020.  See update below.

 

During the past week, as the coronavirus / COVID-19 crisis has taken over our lives, I have heard from many advocates who are taking all the steps needed to stay safe, who tell me they are recommending such steps to others, and that (in the words of one) they are “just planning to wait it out until this all blows over.”

No NO No No No! 

That is NOT the right thinking for smart practice owners!  In fact, it’s just the opposite of how we should be looking at our world right now, as follows:

We are in the throes of a health crisis!  A crisis is a crisis – and if you are someone who calls yourself a professional, working in the health and medical space, then this is the PRIME TIME to step up, to become pro-active – and to shine!  This is NOT the time to wait for the crisis to blow over!

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Patient Advocates and the Coronavirus

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know you can’t turn on the news, read news online or in a newspaper, or attend an event, or go anywhere – in person or online – without seeing or hearing something about the 2019 coronavirus.

It’s the only health-related story that can knock the horror of uncontrolled medical bills lower down the list of headlines. And, of course, because its eventual impact is totally unknown, it frightens people in ways only the media knows how to frighten people.

Since we all work in the world of health and medical care, and because advocates are known to be straight-shooters (because our allegiance is only to patients!) you may find friends, family, clients, and potential clients turning to you for information, asking you questions about the virus. I know this because in 2009, when the Swine Flu (H1N1) hit, I was writing for About.com (now VeryWellHealth.com ) and the number of people reading my articles shot from about 20,000 a day to 100,000+ readers per day – all reading articles I had written about Swine Flu from a patient’s point of view. From curtailing conspiracy theories, to dos’ and don’ts, to staying safe, etc… They weren’t science. They were reassurance through facts, focused on providing peace of mind.

Now, fast forward 10+ years, and it’s time for all patient advocates to step up to that role. Everyone can access the web and read what’s there – frightening information put out there by groups that DO want us to be afraid, and groups who DO want us to spend money to allay our fears.

So – as advocates and care managers – let’s see what we can do to be different!

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Charging on a Sliding Scale Just Creates a Can of Worms

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Most advocates and care managers I know have huge hearts. They want to help everyone who needs help! They truly dislike having to charge money for their services (because many have done this work for free for friends and loved ones for a lifetime). Further, in many cases, they don’t give themselves credit for being as capable as they are.

So they struggle. They ask themselves how on earth they are going to ask for money from these (possibly desperate) people who contact them, especially when:

  • They are new, and haven’t worked in private practice for very long (if at all).
  • They are unsure of their pricing, having taken a wild guess as to what they should charge.
  • They have previously done care management only as a volunteer, never having charged for advocacy services before.
  • They don’t know how long their work will take, so can’t figure out what to charge anyway.
  • They hate asking for money.

All of the above or at least some of the above…. is that you?

So then they they declare – I know! I’ll just charge people on a sliding scale! That way they will only pay me what they can afford, but – they will pay me! And that’s a start.

Whew! What a relief. Right?

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Get Unstuck – Learn to Overcome the Paralysis of Analysis

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Common scenario:

You have dreamed about becoming a private health /patient advocate or care manager for a while. You know you can do it, you know you are a good advocate, your heart really WANTS to change careers to advocacy, you know people need help with their medical system challenges…

Plus everyone you know thinks it’s a great idea! They all tell you – OMG – there is such a huge need!

Maybe you have helped friends and family members over the years, or you have been a doctor or nurse for decades. (I often hear, “I’ve been an advocate all my life. Now I just want to get paid for it!”)

But something, maybe not clearly defined, is holding you back. Mostly it’s because you know you would have to start your own business to be truly independent (there’s the Allegiance Factor, after all)… and you’re not sure you’ve got the chops to do that. You just can’t seem to make that leap from being a volunteer who steps in to help, to being a professional, privately-paid, patient advocate, navigator, or care manager in your own private patient advocacy practice.

You’re just stuck. Your heart is THERE! But your brain won’t let you move forward. Sound familiar?

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Why Lifelong Advocates Can Fail at Independent Advocacy

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Many of you, despite the fact that you have developed outstanding patient advocacy skills, will not succeed as independent private advocates, because you don’t act on one important distinction.

Doesn’t seem right or fair, does it?

So what’s that distinction? Let’s try a metaphor:

Colleen has always loved houses, and has been the admin in a real estate company for almost 30 years. She has handled details upon details for others – from seller contracts to purchaser contracts, from hiring inspectors, to setting and retrieving signs on a property’s front yard. She knows her stuff, she’s done it all, she’s seen it all, and now she’s decided she wants to do real estate work on her own. So Colleen earns her sales and brokers licenses, quits her job, and goes into business for herself.

houseColleen does everything she thinks she’s supposed to do to be successful. She makes up business cards and some flyers. She builds a website. She lets everyone in her neighborhood and her church know that she’s got decades of real estate experience, and now she’s ready to help them list or buy a house. Her phone rings on occasion, but… The business just doesn’t come in to support her well enough. Eventually she is forced to take a part time job so she can pay some of her bills. But, of course, if people call her for help right away and she’s at her job, she misses the opportunity.

Six months later, Colleen is forced to give up her dream of being in business for herself, doing the real estate work she is passionate about. She can’t support herself. Not enough people call her. But she just doesn’t understand it – Colleen can’t figure out why she can’t build a business.

What Colleen missed, the reason she can’t succeed, is the same reason many of you who read this will go out of business, too. Until you recognize it and act on it, you are doomed to fail (unless, of course, you win the lottery and can be a patient advocate for free, with no worry about income….)

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