An Advocate’s Allegiance Makes All the Difference

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allegianceJust in the past week alone, I’ve been asked three times why someone would hire a private patient advocate when there are so many other forms of help available.

What other forms would those be?  A variety:

  • hospital patients can call on the hospital’s patient advocate for help
  • cancer patients find navigators to help them through treatment
  • insurance customers can call their customer service rep, or even an insurance company patient advocate
  • a newly diagnosed patient can often find that large disease advocacy organizations, like the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society or the American Diabetes Association, will provide an advocate to help them sort out questions they may have

Yes – those are all resources patients have when they need assistance.  And to some extent, patients may find the answers they seek with any of them.

But there is something each one is lacking, and that one thing can mean the difference between life and death, the difference between quality of life or lack thereof, or the difference between solvency and bankruptcy.

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If I Could File a Lawsuit, I Would

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blindfoldI’m really angry at the investment firm Morgan Stanley – really angry.  I have had to deal with them since my father died, trying to manage and move a small IRA my sisters and I inherited, and they have done their utmost to make that impossible.

I’ve told the story at my About.com blog because the bottom line is – if there was such a thing as a financial services advocate, I would hire him or her.  That’s a great lesson for patients, with similar concepts applied to their medical care, and will hopefully make some of your phones ring, too.

But I’m so angry and frustrated by my experience with Morgan Stanley, that if there was such a thing as filing a lawsuit over their behavior, I would file one. Within this experience are some lessons for advocates, how we handle customer service, and how we keep ourselves from being sued.

You can read some of the story here. I’ve listed some of their transgressions, but not the worst ones. In that About.com post, I didn’t talk about the contracts they insisted I sign – “immediately or we’ll miss the deadline!” – in which they had already checked off boxes that made choices I would never make. Fine print, intended to trick me? Or the fact that I almost had to pay penalties because Dad had not taken a minimum distribution for 2012 – a fact pointed out to me in the 11th hour – a question I never would have known to ask.

I’m so angry, in fact, that I’m writing about them publicly and naming names. I’ve threatened to report them to the SEC. You don’t EVER want your clients to become so angry at you.

At the root of my anger is, that just like your clients and potential clients, I don’t know what I don’t know, and Morgan Stanley is treating me like a mushroom – keeping me in the dark and feeding me, well, animal waste.

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Don’t Let Your Cause Be the Cause of Lost Business

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With the national presidential conventions behind us, and particularly if you live in a swing state, you know that the political campaigning, dressed as attacks and vitriol, is only revving up (as if it can get any worse?)

This presidential election will be the first one that social media – like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter – will be used by the mainstream to share opinions and information.  Possibly for the first time, you’re going to learn what your friends and followers, and those you follow, think about which candidate – and why.  You’re going to learn more about them than you ever knew, and I guarantee that if you spend much time on social media, you’ll be surprised, and in some cases, disappointed or even shocked by the things some of them have to say.

Some will make snide little comments. Others will be downright nasty. You’ll agree with some. And sadly, there will be others who you will never like, or respect, again.

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The Health Advocate’s Olympics

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Like many of you, I have been glued to the Olympics for more than a week.  I stay up very late every night (and have to drag myself out of bed in the morning!) to watch athletes who can twist or turn or propel their bodies in ways that seem practically inhuman.  A mix of awe, pride, respect and, when it comes to Chinese badminton players, incredulity.

Watching the athletes and the competitions, I realized there are some metaphorical similarities between what they do, and what we, the pioneers of the profession of private health advocacy, are working to accomplish, as follows:

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What’s a Bad Outcome? And Where Does the Fault Lie?

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Scenario:

Joan, age 75, living in Ft. Lauderdale, was diagnosed with Stage IV Ovarian Cancer.  Joan’s daughter, Beth, who lives in Kansas, contacts Maxine, a private patient advocate and RN who works in Ft. Lauderdale, to help her mother.  Joan, Beth and Maxine have extensive conversations about the care Joan will need. The decision is made that Joan will need surgery and chemo.  Maxine is hired to oversee the care since Beth lives so far away.

The surgery goes well.  The hospital stay is typical. Joan is discharged from the hospital, but three days later begins to show signs of an infection at her incision location.  Sure enough, it’s a staph infection which is already running rampant through her body.  Joan dies less than a week later.

A bad outcome – no question about it.

And now Beth is furious, an emotion only heightened by her grief.  Further, Beth blames Maxine for the loss of her mother because, after all, Maxine is an RN, a private advocate, who was expected to make sure her mother came through her diagnosis, surgery and chemo so she could go on to lead a quality life for many years to come.

………………

This scenario is an extreme, I grant you.  But bear with me while you see how it influences every step you take, every conversation you have, as a private health advocate.

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