Plenty of Disruption at the PPAI Conference

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It was an incredible collection of professionals representing a wide spectrum of private and hospital advocacy.  Men, women, younger (20-somethings), older (70-somethings), newbies (“I’m still thinking about it”) and veterans (“I’ve been doing this for 20 years!”). Bedside advocates, hospital advocates, billing and claims advocates, mediators, nurses and nurse practitioners, lawyers, x-ray technicians, social workers, CPAs, mothers, fathers, daughters and sons, nieces and nephews, neighbors and friends…

And they are all disruptive – and are now more committed to continuing disruption than ever.

Such was the PPAI (Professional Patient Advocate Institute) Conference held last week in Orlando. It was a marvelous event, the speakers were incredibly knowledgeable, and the venue was terrific.

But disruption?  Let me explain.

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“In the Mood” – How Glenn Miller, Johnny Mercer and the Andrews Sisters Helped Dad Weather His Pain

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(Posted October 2012)

I’ve just returned from Florida, having spent almost two weeks with my sisters, taking care of details since Dad died.  There were plenty of tears – of course.  But even more laughter – because despite our mourning, we shared many marvelous family memories as we uncovered this treasure (good grief – our grade school report cards!) or that one (did we really wear our hair like that in the 80s?)

And of course, there were the conversations with the more than 100 people who attended Dad’s memorial service. (Quite surprising really – they were mostly in their 80s and 90s.) It was a memorial service like few others –  exactly what he requested – a celebration – a party! …including an open bar and hors d’oeuvres afterwards.  The readings and passages were part-mournful, but more than that, they were an homage to a man loved and respected by many.  My sisters and I were so very proud of the man who was our father.

Included in the celebration service was music, of course.  But not what you might expect.  Instead we put on a Glenn Miller CD, and a mix of other music from the 1940s. In the Mood, Candy, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy —   Dad would have loved it.  I know his friends did.

The music – it was an important part of Dad’s life – and his death.  In fact, through his final few days, I asked his hospice nurse to turn on the TV cable channel that plays1940s music – because it brought him so much pleasure to listen to the songs he shared with Mom as they were dating, fell in love and married.  It seemed to work well, taking his mind off his pain, as he finally relaxed, slept, and then passed. Continue Reading →

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What’s In a Name? A Caveat for “Navigators”

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Friend of health and patient advocates and NAVIGATORs everywhere, Elisabeth Russell, forwarded a link to many of us this week – an article from the National Cancer Institute regarding the use of patient navigators for cancer patients.

My first reaction is – what a marvelous, MARVELOUS service these navigators are providing to cancer patients.  I have to wonder how cancer patients ever survived treatment prior to having a navigator to help them!

And then I have to pause….

I see a few problems cropping up – two that can be problematic for health and patient advocates, and one a problem for patients.

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Just How Many Patient Advocates Are There?

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One of our AdvoConnection members asked me the question a few weeks ago:  How many patient advocates do I think there are?

I’ve got some educated guesses.

But there are actually three parts to the question.  Just trying to figure out how many there are is only the first part.  Figuring out the trends is also important.  And figuring out who can actually help patients in the ways they need help is the other.

Here are the answers I gave her.  See what you think.  Add or subtract. Change direction.  Whatever you think…. because you and your role are found in these notes:

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Tooting Your Own Horn, and Playing a Tune People Want (and Need) to Hear

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My last two posts have focused on why it’s important for those who want to succeed as private patient advocates realize that their success won’t rely on just their advocacy skills.  The bottom line is that success is NOT about an advocate’s skills.  Success is dependent on the balance of perception, needs and knowledge on the part of potential clients and the capabilities of advocates to fulfill them.  And that means that success is dependent on the advocate’s understanding of how to run and promote a business.

In other words:  Succeeding in the business of private patient advocacy requires two things:  good advocacy and good business.  Neither can stand by itself.  Good advocacy without business won’t succeed.  Good business without good advocacy won’t succeed.

Last week, we took a look at two representative advocates to illustrate the concept;  Dorothy Anderson is a former NICU nurse who hopes to help families with at-risk newborns make their transition home as safe and healthy as possible.  Kurt Schaefer is a former hospital billing specialist who hopes to help people reduce their hospital and other medical bills.  Both have impeccable skill sets and capabilities.  But neither is succeeding – because they are not business-minded.

For balance sake, let’s try a third example.  Katherine Lee is an entrepreneur who has decided patient advocacy is an up-and-coming field. Her business sense tells her that she can hire people with minimal skill sets, teach them how to be advocates, begin working on insurance plans to try to corral reimbursements, and pretty soon she’ll be chunking off her own pieces of the health insurance money pie.

It will probably upset you to learn that Katherine has a much better chance of initial success than either Dorothy or Kurt does.

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