Is Grampa Packin’ Heat? And Other Safety Considerations for Advocates

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threatsSometimes a conversation gets started in our APHA Forum that brings me up short. (One reason I SO love the Forum!)

One of those conversations was kicked off this week by a member who posed a question: are other members asking potential new clients whether they have guns in their homes?

I’m not a gun person, and I live in an area where we just don’t think about guns much, so I really didn’t understand the question at first…. until others chimed in.

It’s about safety – which, of course, makes perfect sense. Many members followed up Marie’s question with comments that showed the comprehensive nature of those safety considerations:  that it’s not just about a client’s safety (might she ever try to commit suicide?) but about the advocate’s safety, too.  (Might the client get angry enough with his own perceptions or frustrations that he would take it out on his advocate?)  Further, it’s not just about guns. It’s about violence wrought of frustration and fear. A number of scenarios and solutions have been shared in the Forum.

It got me thinking about the broader picture:  How many of us think about the potential dangers we are exposed to in our profession?  I think many of us ponder the threat of lawsuits….

But I’m not sure many of us think about real physical, safety-related threats – problems we can prevent up front if we are aware of them – which goes back to why I value the conversations we have in the Forum. It’s possible this particular conversation will save lives.

Other dangers I can think of:

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Beware Those Wolves in Sheeps’ Clothing

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wolfTwo unrelated stories have crossed my path, but their bottom lines are the same.  It’s too easy to be fooled. 

Story #1:  … is based on a scathing article in this week’s Wall Street Journal about the amount of money medical device companies pay to the doctors who use their products.  The story is mostly focused on investigations from the Justice Department starting with one doctor who lived and worked in California, Dr. Aria Sabit, who insisted on using certain spinal implant products because he owns part of the distributorship company and is making money in a half dozen ways – from kickbacks to distributorship profits – over each surgery he does.

But the story-within-the-story is that Dr. Sabit is also named in 12 lawsuits over the deaths of people who died as a result of his surgeries – and who had received those implants to help them live better-quality lives. It matters little whether the fault lies with the implants or the doctor’s skill level; those patients are dead.

But there’s more to the story, of course, and unfortunately, it’s not a part of the WSJ article.

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Pushing Back

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pushbackI truly dislike negativity.  I suspect you do, too.

As a kid, I would avoid arguments like the plague.  I hated the upset that went along with it – that feeling of frustration, and churning in my stomach.  Ugh.

As I got older, I realized that negativity was always going to be a part of my life whether I liked it or not. Avoiding it was not an option, because avoiding it meant I wasn’t sticking up for myself or my loved ones or the tenets I believed in. Avoiding it meant I couldn’t right a wrong – or learn and understand other points of view.

And then, perhaps the realization we all arrive at eventually: that not all negativity is created equal.  There are degrees of problems and contention that arise in life, and therefore dealing with it also requires appropriate response.  From cocking one’s head, to a full-blown argument.  From a few choice words to a full blown lawsuit.  And everything in between.

Over time, I’ve found that my most successful tool for dealing with contention is, simply, a gentle push back.  This is true in both my personal life and in business. I think 99% of the contentious issues in my life have been solved more by a push back question or statement than they have by anything stronger than that…

And so, I always try the Push Back first – before I bring out the cannons.

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Hospital Providers Come to Patient Advocates’ Defense

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chicksLast week I had the opportunity to speak to two groups of hospital quality personnel; those folks who work in hospitals who are charged with overseeing the safety of their patients. They are QIOS, that is, Quality Improvement Officers – and their jobs depend on making sure that their body of patients this year are safer than their body of patients were last year, that next year’s patients are safer than this year’s, and so forth.

My overall message was “let patient’s help”- the idea that no one cares as much about a patient’s good outcomes than the patient and the patient’s families and loved ones. Therefore, by intentionally including them in care tasks and decisions while they are hospitalized, their outcomes may be better:  fewer falls, fewer pressure ulcers, fewer central line infections, etc.

We looked at why this could be important, and how to embrace this kind of help from patients and caregivers… plus I included several slides that suggested that they embrace the presence of private patient advocates. That such advocates are another professional set of eyes and ears that can be devoted to the patient. That devotion means the patient will have less chance of suffering “sentinel events” or “serious reportable events” (also called “never events” – meaning, hospital errors) – which in turn makes the hospital look good.  It’s win win – so why could any hospital object?

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Healthcare System Challenges in 2013 Create Opportunities for Advocates

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newyearThe healthcare times, they are a-changing!

As we wrap up 2012 and look forward to next year (or perhaps, by the time you read this, it will already be 2013), there are a number of issues and challenges patients – our clients – need to be concerned with.

Take the time to become familiar with these updates and challenges, alerts and warnings; they may create marketing opportunities for you as you alert potential clients that you can solve them as a part of your service.

I’ve written about them here: Some are simply updates to how the system is managed now. Others are warnings. From the changes in the system due to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare), to the increasing difficulty patients are having finding primary care, to the shifts in how doctors do business due to the implementation of electronic medical records, to new tricks and wool-over-our-eyes tactics health insurance companies are using to deny coverage for patient care, and finally, the influence of new resources – like technology and yes, patient advocates.

How can you use them?  Continue Reading →

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