Patient Advocates and the Coronavirus

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know you can’t turn on the news, read news online or in a newspaper, or attend an event, or go anywhere – in person or online – without seeing or hearing something about the 2019 coronavirus.

It’s the only health-related story that can knock the horror of uncontrolled medical bills lower down the list of headlines. And, of course, because its eventual impact is totally unknown, it frightens people in ways only the media knows how to frighten people.

Since we all work in the world of health and medical care, and because advocates are known to be straight-shooters (because our allegiance is only to patients!) you may find friends, family, clients, and potential clients turning to you for information, asking you questions about the virus. I know this because in 2009, when the Swine Flu (H1N1) hit, I was writing for About.com (now VeryWellHealth.com ) and the number of people reading my articles shot from about 20,000 a day to 100,000+ readers per day – all reading articles I had written about Swine Flu from a patient’s point of view. From curtailing conspiracy theories, to dos’ and don’ts, to staying safe, etc… They weren’t science. They were reassurance through facts, focused on providing peace of mind.

Now, fast forward 10+ years, and it’s time for all patient advocates to step up to that role. Everyone can access the web and read what’s there – frightening information put out there by groups that DO want us to be afraid, and groups who DO want us to spend money to allay our fears.

So – as advocates and care managers – let’s see what we can do to be different!

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The Momma Test

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Over the years, one of my favorite things to do has been to work with / speak to / address college students. They are young, aren’t yet set in their ways, still hope to save the world, are naive to the “follow the money” aspects of healthcare and, honestly, it’s just plain fun.

Last week I had the privilege of participating in an ethics debate for a well-known and respected university in a course called Controversies in Healthcare (medical, legal, and bio ethics), to a combination group of law students and medical students, on the topic of independent advocacy – vs – hospital advocacy. My co-debater was the Director of Ombudsman at a very well-known and respected hospital system.

The idea, since it was a “controversies” class, was that we were supposed to argue that our own solutions were the better solutions, and that the opposing solution was not a good choice.

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Help Us Assess the LoveFest!

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Once upon a time, the word “advocate” was contentious: doctors didn’t want us in the room, nurses didn’t want us next to a hospital bed, and health insurers thought we patient advocates were nothing but troublemakers.

But in recent years there seems to have been a major shift in attitudes. I’m hoping you can help us assess that.

This point came up in several recent conversations with people who have been doing advocacy work for many years; who have been able to observe attitudes for quite awhile, and who tell me they have seen this shift with their own eyes.

The shift?  From wary standoffishness – to a lovefest! 

As follows:

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Serving One’s Country as a Healthcare Soldier

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Over the holiday weekend – Memorial Day Weekend – I pondered the sacrifices soldiers have made for our country. I expect you did, too.

I’m married to a retired soldier. My husband spent 20 years in the US Air Force during the VietNam War era. I’m so very, very proud of him and his service. Patriotic holidays have a special meaning to us because, well, he lived it. (I was not married to him in those years.) We are grateful to, and honor those who served, including those who lost their lives.

All this pondering, and the tendency of my mind to wander (!), got me thinking about a different form of service, too.

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That Very Very Thin Line – Do NOT Be Tom!

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My husband and I moved two years ago to Florida where we now live in an “active adult” community*. We love it! We’re very happy here. We’ve met and made many new friends – people we have truly come to care about.

I’m following in family footsteps.  My parents did the same thing decades ago. They lived in a different city, but they, too, lived in an active adult community for 20+ years.

My father, in a somewhat macabre voice, always called it “God’s Waiting Room.”

And, as I learned again this past week, it turns out that we now live in God’s Waiting Room, too.

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