SAFE! … or Maybe Not?

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Safety has been on my mind this week. It’s one of those concepts that, when related to patient advocacy and care management, can be applied in so many ways, with not so many easy answers.

What kind of safety?  Physical safety, of course.  AND financial safety.

Whose safety?  Your clients’ safety, of course.  AND yours.

The questions aren’t so much about what is safe, or what isn’t.  The questions are about judgment, timing, and consequences, and recognizing safety issues when the problems are obvious – vs – those times that are less obvious that we might miss all together – and what will happen if we aren’t paying attention.

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Sleep Deprivation Spells Opportunity – and Responsibility

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Saturday night (well, OK, in the wee hours of Sunday morning) across most of the US and Canada, we “sprung forward” our clocks, resulting in lost sleep, and at least a day of being totally thrown off because the day seemed… well…. just weird. Since most of us don’t work on a Sunday, the day of adjustment helped us acclimate, and then – life goes on with a longer day of sunshine through next Fall.

But what if you had to lose that sleep every few days, then re-acclimate every few days?  What if you spent your life in a constant battle with the time of day, and the loss of sleep? What if you had to put in 28 hour days of work and then, somehow, try to catch up on your sleep, returning just 8 hours later to do it all again?

And then what if your job was brand new and involved saving lives, because you were a first-year resident doctor (no, they don’t call them interns anymore)… and your patients, who were hospitalized so YOU could take care of THEM, were constantly at the mercy of your lack of sleep?

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Carly Simon, Ketchup and an Advocate’s Secret Sauce

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Many readers of this blog (members of The Alliance of Professional Health Advocates) know we’ve been burning the candle at both ends trying to complete the build of the new APHA membership website.  Short of raising my two daughters, I think it’s the biggest project I’ve ever undertaken – just enormous – hundreds of resources and thousands of pages – and I’m happy that it is now complete! (Or at least as close as it will ever be – these things are never truly complete.)

Along the way, I’ve learned a few lessons about how to approach the work that can help you, too. And here is the bottom line to those lessons:

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Revisiting the Case of Farid Fata – Why Patient Advocates Must Take Notice

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In July 2015, we took a look at the case of Farid Fata, the Michigan oncologist who is now in prison on fraud charges because he diagnosed and treated more than 500 people for cancer they didn’t have, many of whom died.

Yes – you read that right.  You read the part about treating more than 500 people for cancer they didn’t have.  And, I hope you caught the part that he is in prison on FRAUD charges – not murder, not manslaughter – nothing that recognizes the horrible physical condition he left those patients in after aggressive chemo and radiation. Whatever he could make money from, that’s what he did, and that’s why he is in prison.

See:  A Second Opinion Isn’t Good Enough

Shortly after publishing the post about second opinions, I wrote about how, if any of Fata’s patients had hired a patient advocate, they would not have become victims. There are tasks we do to help our clients that would have prevented harm once we were hired. 

See:  How Professional Patient Advocates Would Have Stopped Farid Fata

Then, last night, NBC’s Dateline took a more in-depth look at the case of Farid Fata, featuring interviews with a number of the patients he had treated, plus an interview with a nurse, Angela Swantek, who figured out what he was doing during a job interview three years before Farid was arrested. No, she didn’t take the job. Instead she blew him in – and the State of Michigan did nothing about it then. (I say KUDOs to her and a pox on the house of those people who decided not to investigate.)

What I learned during the Dateline interviews was that Continue Reading →

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Can an Advocate Do More Harm Than Good?

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Yes, sadly (although rarely) a patient advocate does more harm than good.

I was reminded of this recently when I heard from one of our Alliance members who was picking up the ball from another advocate (not an APHA member) who had totally messed up the work a client-patient needed to have done – an advocate who had actually made the client’s situation worse.

The problem-creating advocate had been working with her client through a hospitalization. As far as we know, that work went well. Her core business is medical-navigational advocates. However, later, when the client’s hospital bill arrived, the client asked the advocate to help him appeal several items the insurer had denied, then to attempt to reduce the hospital bill.

I don’t know all the details. What I do know is that the advocate in question had never filed an insurance appeal before, and had never negotiated a hospital bill before, but she attempted to do both for this client, and she failed at both.

The client, frustrated and upset, reached out to the APHA member-advocate to ask for help. What the member told me was that it was too late. Only one appeal was allowed, and the hospital billing department had dug in its heals because the first advocate had become verbally abusive.

Yikes.

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