Non-Payer? Or Scammer? A New Step for Client Engagement

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We hear about scams and frauds every day in the news. An elderly person is convinced to donate money to a scam charity, or doctors defraud Medicare, or someone’s identity is stolen, or the IRS’s website is hacked….

Thing is – like car accidents – we never think a scam can happen to us. So we simply, and naively, go about our days and our business thinking we are somehow immune. We are such nice people, so very giving, and can’t imagine anyone would ever try to take advantage of us…Right?

No. Wrong. Wrong, and expensive.

One of our APHA members confessed to me last week that she had completed almost $6000 worth of work for a woman in another state who needed help with a social security disability filing. She began the relationship well and correctly, sending a contract for signature, and insisting on partial payment up front. But the woman was so very desperate, pleading…  deadlines came up swiftly and needed to be met…… the advocate felt trapped by the desperation and deadlines, jumped right into the work and got it done. The client collected $21,000 in disability payments!  Great job, right?

But the uncrossed T’s and the undotted I’s are now coming back to bite the advocate in the backside… because the client never did return the contract with her signature, paid only $500 to get started … and now refuses both her signature and payment for the remaining balance. Not only does she refuse to sign, or pay, but she is now disputing whether the advocate really did any of the work, claiming she did most of it herself.

Say what?

That’s when the advocate contacted me, wanting to know what recourse she might have to collect. In her email to me she made a statement that provided me with one of those lightbulb moments – OMG – this signals the need for a whole new step in an advocate’s prep for working with a new client.

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Surprising Wisdom from Chipotle Will Make Your Day

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About once every five or six weeks I splurge on Chipotle for lunch. Love it – guacamole and all (Have you tried their corn salsa? Yum.)

On my most recent visit, I did something I had never taken the time to do.  I read the take-out bag. That’s right. If you have never purchased take-out at Chipotle, you may not know that there is a great deal of what looks like plain old text on the bag. I had never paused to read it, assuming (uh-huh) that all that text was just promotional in nature – and who has time for that?

But I was so wrong! 

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Twisted Words Put Me Off

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Within the past few weeks, I have had one phone conversation, and have exchanged an email, with two different people who are hoping to and working to become advocates, both exchanges which resulted in very negative takeaways on my part.

And then I wondered – how many of the rest of us do this same thing, even if we never intend to come across the way we do? And if we do it, no matter how unintentionally, does it give patient advocacy a bad name, or a black eye?

Those twisted words are actually a response, or the intent of a response most of us run into every day. All that is required to fix it is a slight difference in response which results in a huge difference in the impression it makes.

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Misleading Headline Provides an Opportunity

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This week the Chicago Tribune featured patient advocacy as a growing trend – a marvelous exposure to private advocacy for the uninitiated (uninitiated = most of the known universe).  Several of our APHA members were mentioned in the article and for the most part, it was an excellent representation of the status of private advocacy.

Except for the headline:

tribheadline

Now, most of us are intelligent enough to know that headlines are created to suck in readers, and too often, intentionally focus on some point that doesn’t really represent the story – just draws those readers.  And so it was with this headline, too.

It’s unfortunate, because too many of us are guilty of seeing a headline and drawing conclusions, without ever really reading the story. There may be millions of Chicago Tribune readers who saw only the headline and didn’t read the story, and therefore won’t consider contacting a private patient advocate because – as per the headline – they think it will be too expensive to pay for that help. 

Sad, but true.

But that headline did one thing very well. That is, it gave us a good opportunity to explore the concept of “costly” – and turn this negative into a positive. 

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Enemies? No, But With an Important Distinction

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fistpumpA recent email exchange with an APHA member highlighted a point we don’t make often enough, and one you need to embrace so you can discuss it with potential clients. The problem is – she used it to leap to an errant conclusion, one that demands clarity.

In her email, she mentioned that she was considering joining a different professional organization, one that focuses on hospital advocacy, teaching hospital advocates how to do their jobs.  She stated that the other organization

“has multiple affiliations with those purported enemies of true patient advocacy, patient relations departments.”

What? I was so taken aback! Enemies? How on earth would anyone construe that hospital patient relations personnel are enemies of private patient advocates?

Let me be clear.  THEY ARE NOT.  Not even close. Those words should never be in the same sentence.

But somehow she had drawn that conclusion, causing me to examine why she had done so.  And while I can’t explain the leap she took, I did identify the genesis of her idea, confirmed by subsequent email exchanges, as follows:

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