The Affordable Care Act / Obamacare Defines Perfect Roles for Private Professional Patient Advocates

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ACAThe healthcare reform law called the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – or Obamacare if you prefer the moniker (preferences seem to run about 50/50) – is being implemented over time. Of course, as most of us realize, the major portion described as the individual mandate, kicks in January 1, 2014 – only a few months from now.

No matter how you feel about the legislation for your personal situation, you owe it to yourself to become familiar with the aspects of the law that define excellent roles for health advocates, no matter what type of advocacy they practice – medical navigational, research or decision-making, medical billing, hospital bedside advocacy or others.

Last week, members of the Alliance of Professional Health Advocates were privileged to spend an hour with Linda Adler, a member of the Alliance, who has studied healthcare reform long and hard, talking about the important aspects of the ACA that clients may ask about, talking about resources to help answer client questions, and then, importantly, the many opportunities the ACA creates to help advocates market our advocacy practices.

It was one of the most useful hours any of us have spent in a long time.

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Beware Those Wolves in Sheeps’ Clothing

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wolfTwo unrelated stories have crossed my path, but their bottom lines are the same.  It’s too easy to be fooled. 

Story #1:  … is based on a scathing article in this week’s Wall Street Journal about the amount of money medical device companies pay to the doctors who use their products.  The story is mostly focused on investigations from the Justice Department starting with one doctor who lived and worked in California, Dr. Aria Sabit, who insisted on using certain spinal implant products because he owns part of the distributorship company and is making money in a half dozen ways – from kickbacks to distributorship profits – over each surgery he does.

But the story-within-the-story is that Dr. Sabit is also named in 12 lawsuits over the deaths of people who died as a result of his surgeries – and who had received those implants to help them live better-quality lives. It matters little whether the fault lies with the implants or the doctor’s skill level; those patients are dead.

But there’s more to the story, of course, and unfortunately, it’s not a part of the WSJ article.

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What Private Patient Advocates Can Learn from Paula Deen*

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pauladeenHey y’all!

If someone had asked you on the June 20, 2013 to describe Paula Deen, you might have described her as a bubbly, vivacious, popular Food Network star, author, well-merchandised cook or chef.  Whether or not you liked her, and no matter what you thought of her approach to food, you at least had to admire her empire and popularity.

Over the next week, her empire collapsed, seemingly because she fessed up to using the N-word during a lawsuit deposition.*

The bigger they are, the harder they fall.  It makes no difference whether or not Deen’s fall was fair or right. It happened.  It remains to be seen whether she can recapture what she had.

We can think of other well-known people who have “fallen” too.  Tiger Woods, OJ Simpson, even Martha Stewart and Bill Clinton.  With varying success they have come back to their original popularity, although for the rest of their lives, their names will always be accompanied by an asterisk.

Do you see any patterns?  Except that they were all “big” – until they weren’t – it seems their only similarity is that each made a misstep, even though their missteps were entirely different.

But let’s look at the bigger picture here, because it’s through the bigger picture that you’ll see why this point is important to you and your patient advocacy practice.

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We Get By With a Little Help from Our Friends

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ringo(Can’t you just hear Ringo in your ear? and yes, if you understand that reference, you’re dating yourself!)

This week I was reminded several times about all the folks who are trying to develop their patient advocacy practices on their own, thinking they need to conquer it all by themselves.

They don’t.  They shouldn’t. And they run the risk of failing in business until they start thinking differently.

Here’s why:

  • Patient Advocacy is a time-intensive, hands-on undertaking.  Each client needs a great deal of attention, usually immediately.  Yet time isn’t something we can find more of; there are still only 24 hours in the day.
  • Patient Advocacy is intense, and no one person can be that intense 24/7/365.  To stay healthy ourselves, physically and mentally, we need down time, and relaxation time, self-care time.
  • Life happens.  We all deal on occasion with family emergencies or last minute “surprises”.  Like times we ourselves might get sick, or when a family member needs us.
  • Patient Advocacy represents many skills and broad knowledge, far more than any one single person can know or do by him or herself.
  • (add your own reason here)

Unfortunately, too many of us learn this the hard way.  An accident, a sudden illness, a death in the family….

If you were pulled away from your business tomorrow, who would keep it afloat for you?

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Sharing Healthcare’s Dirty Little Secrets

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secretI’ve just written a post at about my recent mammogram experience where the breast center I’ve gone to for more than a decade managed to dissolve my trust of their service in the span of one phone call.

Is it possible that they were being honest and I have no reason to lose my trust in them?  Yes, of course. Maybe I’ve jumped the gun – or maybe not. But it doesn’t really matter.

Because whether they deserve my distrust or not, I will never trust them again. No, not a chance. (Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get me.)

And so it struck me as I was writing that post that the very fact that I have become so distrustful of them suggests a place where advocates can actually create more trust for themselves.


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