3 More Myths About Building a Successful Independent Advocacy Practice

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We began last week with this series of myths about starting, building, and growing an independent patient advocacy or care management practice.

As a reminder, these myths are based on the comments I’ve heard from advocates who just couldn’t get a practice going – who (sad to say) failed – not because they don’t know how to be good advocates (they do!) but because they tried to get started despite their misconceptions about what it would be like to do so.

This week we have three more of those myths for you to consider, in hopes these misconceptions aren’t yours. Or, if they are, helping you to get past them.

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Top 10 “Best Of” APHA Posts: 2017 in Review

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As 2017 comes to a close, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the blog posts you, my readers, considered to be most worth your reading time. Using post analytics, I’m able to see how many of you have read each of the 44 posts from 2017. Then, accommodating for the fact that some posts have been online for 11+ months, while others were just posted recently, it’s easy to tell which ones captured your imagination (or google’s search interest) to make the assessment.

So here are the top 10 posts (well – OK – I did have trouble counting again), in chronological order, the oldest to the newest:

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Saying No and Refusing to Serve: How to Draw That Line

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If we have learned anything about ourselves in the past 10 days, it’s that there are some people in this world we will never be able to understand or condone. Between the skirmishes in Charlottesville, VA, and the killings in Barcelona and elsewhere; I am reminded that I will NEVER understand hate. I will NEVER condone racism, or neo-nazi-ism, or jihad, or white supremacy – or killing. Period.

As I watched it all unfold through the news, I asked myself, What would I do if one of those people whose attitudes and opinions I find so repugnant asked me to be their advocate?

The answer came easily. I would say no. 

I’m guessing that most of you would want to say NO, too – but would not know how to do so. So I am providing you here with justification and tactics to effectively, legally, and ethically draw a line between who we will, and who we won’t, provide advocacy services to.

Who we WILL work with – is fairly easy.  We’ll serve almost anyone who needs our skill set, in a geography we can serve, who is willing to sign our contract, who can afford to pay us to do that work.

Who we WON’T or DON’T WANT to work with – is more complex, in particular because of our Code of Ethics and Professional Standards, and possibly because of the law.

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The Most Expensive Business to Start

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It’s entirely possible to start a new business on a shoestring. We know this, because every publication worth the paper or website it’s published on tells us so:  Forbes, USA Today, Entrepreneur, all of them.

It requires time, grit, determination, attention to detail, great word-of-mouth – oh – and money! More about this in a minute.

The truth is – the concept of starting a business on a shoestring depends on the size of your shoes and therefore, the length and strength of their laces. It certainly doesn’t hurt if they are made of solid-gold, and you can sell them for your seed money.

If you hear a sarcastic edge in this post, it’s for good reason. It’s born of frustration, the feeling that I’m shouting into an empty cave.  I’ve just heard from one more person who has closed up her advocacy practice because she can’t afford it anymore; this on the heels of a conversation last week with one of our APHA Mentors who asked me, “Why do people think they can start an advocacy practice with no investment? Why do they think they can do it for free?”

Good questions. GREAT questions. And sadly, representative of too much reality and too much failure. And, for today, it means I’m going to try to provide this reality check one more time.

Let’s look at that shoestring for a minute. 

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Tough Questions, Informative Discussions, and Opportunities to Count Our Blessings

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From 2006 to 2010, I hosted a weekly radio show, sponsored by Upstate Medical University (Syracuse, NY). It gave me the opportunity to interview truly knowledgeable experts in every aspect of medicine and healthcare you can imagine.

It was an incredible learning experience. I would walk away from our recordings each week realizing that for every iota of information I knew or had just learned, there were millions of iotas I didn’t know, would never know, and might never even know to ask about. Gratifying, brain-stimulating, and sometimes overwhelming.

photo - dr eastwood

Dr. Gregory Eastwood

Included in the conversations was a monthly feature that focused on ethical questions in medicine and healthcare. I co-hosted the sessions with Dr. Gregory Eastwood, the president of the university, and a member of the Bioethics and Humanities Department. We made quite a team: the professional who, for decades, had dealt with these issues and the people who faced them, paired with me, the patient, who had never had to deal with most of them, but who tried to put herself in the shoes of those very frightened, overwhelmed and sometimes angry patients and family members who were forced to face difficult and often heart-wrenching decisions.

During those years we produced dozens of rich discussions, dealing with facts, reality, and perception, as affected by morality, religion / spirituality, culture, the law, and the human heart. I just loved those conversations – they made me think in directions my brain had never been forced to go before. (One of the results was the reminder to count my blessings. Few of us do that often enough.)

In 2010, I had to walk away from my hosting duties. My travel schedule had made it all but impossible to keep up the weekly recording schedule; totally unfair to the producers, and exhausting for me. I look back on the experience with gratitude for both the opportunity of meeting so many intelligent people with so much expertise, and the in-depth education I received on so many topics related to medicine, the healthcare system, and their impact on people.

Fast forward to today.

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