Like Learning to Ride Your Bike…

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In an email conversation with one of our APHA mentors last week, a point that is so often lacking in the understanding of an independent advocacy practice was made:  That it usually takes 3 to 5 years to know if someone will be a successful business owner, advocacy included.

That so many advocates quit before they get there, never giving themselves a chance, really. They start out thinking it will be easy because, afterall, many been advocates for decades in previous careers…  just a simple switch to self-employment, right?

When they finally understand that the first few years are more about business than advocacy, it’s a rude awakening. When that lightbulb goes off, when they begin to understand it’s about running a business, they begin to panic.  That’s when I hear:

But I’ve never done this before!

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Successes, Failures, and My Biggest Surprise

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12 years. While on the one hand, 12 years seems like a looong time, on the other hand, it has gone by in the blink of an eye.

I’m referring to the 12 years I’ve focused my professional life on building the profession of independent health and patient advocacy, having made the decision in 2007 to begin building an online presence for advocates through the AdvoConnection Directory website. It eventually launched in Fall 2009* and evolved to become The Alliance of Professional Health Advocates.

So I’ve been giving thought to what I consider to be our biggest successes, biggest failures, and biggest surprises during this time, and that’s what I’m sharing with you today. These are my own opinion, of course!  You might make other choices. See what you think:

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How Much Do Patient Advocates Charge?

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If someone asked me what question I am asked most frequently, I’d tell them the answer is some variation of this family of questions:

  • How much do advocates charge for their services?
  • What is the hourly rate for patient advocates?
  • How much do patient advocates make?
  • How much money do patient advocates get paid?
  • What is the average amount a patient advocate charges?

We’ll begin by answering these questions with a question (bad form, but it makes our point…)

  • How much does it cost to take a vacation?
  • What does it cost to go to college?
  • How much more can I make if I get a new job?

Think about those questions for a minute: they are actually kind of silly. In fact, there is only ONE answer; the same answer to the questions about advocates, cost, and pricing.

It depends.

So of course, now you want to know… “Depends on what?” There are two answers:

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When Granny Doesn’t Want to Cross the Street

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You have probably heard that old joke about a Boy Scout who was determined to help a little old lady cross the street. After a number of attempts and iterations, he finally picked her up and carried her to the other side of the street, set her down on the sidewalk, and left, having completed his good deed.

But the joke was really on him – because the lady had no interest in getting to the other side. She had wanted to stay right where she was.

We frequently receive requests to take Granny across the street. They come in the form of Unmet Needs requests from well-meaning friends and family who want an advocate to help someone they care about.

Too many of those patients are just like the little old lady, and too many advocates are trying to play the role of the Boy Scout.

How?

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