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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Families Need You: A Thanksgiving Opportunity

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Thanksgiving and the rest of the holiday season are right around the corner. Smart health and patient advocates and care managers can find this season to be a golden opportunity to expand their reach in many positive ways.

The holidays are family times. Generations come together. Inevitably someone is facing a health and/or health system challenge.  Aunt Joan has a new cancer diagnosis and hasn’t even considered a second opinion.  Dad needs help sorting out his meds, while daughter Francine questions about whether he’s taking the right drugs at the right times, or whether the prescriptions he’s taking are causing some new symptoms. Cousin Jack is drowning in medical debt; he has no idea know how to fight a denied claim, or choose the right health insurance plan.  Uncle Victor, age 78, doesn’t have a DNR or a will because he doesn’t understand their importance.

These are the times family members begin to worry – and wonder who can help out.

The answer is YOU – a friend, a neighbor, a fellow church or temple congregant.  YOU can help them. They probably just don’t know that.

There are a few ways you can quite simply, and gently let them know that you are available should the need arise.  Here are some ideas for getting the word out:

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All We Really Need to Know About Being Good Advocates We Learned in Kindergarten

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As children across the US and Canada start kindergarten this time of the year, I’m reminded of Robert Fulghum’s book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, a classic, published more than 30 years ago.

I’ve actually written about advocates and the kindergarten principles before, years ago, as applied to some real negativity we were experiencing as a profession then. But today’s piece is updated, much more positive, and contains some further advice not shared then.

So much of this kindergarten wisdom is appropriate to our successful running of an independent advocacy or care management practice – no matter whether it’s back-to-school time or not.

So, with a nod to author Fulghum, let’s review.

1. Be Respectful and Expect to Be Respected in Return

This is 360o advice: be respectful of others, and expect them to return the same. Now, you might respond “Yeah… Duh! Of course!” but I’m constantly amazed at the stories I hear about disrespect in relation to advocacy.  I’ve heard about:

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Self-Centered and Unbusinesslike

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Suppose I go to my favorite pizza shop and this conversation takes place:

Me: I would like a pepperoni pizza with black olives, onions, and extra cheese.

Johnny the Pizza Guy:  Sure! I’d be happy to help you with this pizza. But first let me tell you all about my pizza experiences – the reason I like to make pizzas. When I was little, we went to my grandmother’s house for dinner every Wednesday. My grandmother always made meatloaf. She made meatloaf with ground beef and always made gravy and mashed potatoes to go with it. It tasted good. It was filling. Then one Wednesday after eating dinner at Grandma’s (and realizing that it didn’t quite taste the same) my brother got really sick and started to throw up. Then the rest of us started to get sick, too. My mother was worried, so she took us to the ER, and sure enough – Grandma’s meatloaf, which had been tried and true and never changed… Well. She had made it with pork this time, the pork hadn’t cooked through, and we all got food poisoning. So now I make pizza.

Me: Seriously? I come in here to order a pizza and I have to listen to that story? Forget it. I don’t want your pizza anymore.

Now, of course, not only will I not get my pizza, but I have to figure out what to do next, and make all new arrangements for dinner!

I know. You think I’ve really lost it now, but bear with me to see how this applies to you, as an independent advocate.

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