What Health Advocacy Is, What It Isn’t, and Why Most of It Can’t Be Taught

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One of the websites offered by APHA is a listing of all advocacy educational programs (that we know about).  There are programs offered by colleges and universities, private programs, organizational programs, mentors, and more. Some require in-person attendance, some are offered online. Their quality varies, and their results vary….

Often I hear from someone who tells me they have looked over the available programs, but can’t find what they need. What they are looking for doesn’t seem to exist. Or, here is what they want to learn, and will I tell them whether such-and-such a program will teach them that?

Typically what they want to know boils down to this:  Which program will give them the formula for success?  Which one will provide the protocols, and the processes, and the check-off list of things to do?  Which one is the magic, silver bullet that will shift them from employment today, to successful self-employment as an advocate tomorrow?

To which I answer:  ALL of them. And NONE of them.

Here is the problem:  for most of those who ask, they really don’t get what independent advocacy is. They have this idea in their heads that it’s that magical world where they will get to be the advocates they want to be – because they are. “I’ve been an advocate all my life; now I just want to get paid for it,” they tell me. “My hospital won’t let me tell patients what they really need to know, so if I do this on my own, I can change that.” Or other variations on those themes.

Here’s the point I think they are missing:  Continue Reading →

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The Birdcage: How to Ruin a First Impression

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Many readers know that my husband and I moved last year to Florida from Upstate NY, where – yes, thank you! – we have truly enjoyed this winter. No shoveling, mostly mild temperatures, lots of sun, and golf! – a big change from the past many winters.

So here in our new home in Florida we’ve decided to bring some of the outdoors in. Or maybe we’re going to take some of our indoors out. Whichever way you look at it, we’re getting ready to build a “birdcage,” a screened room which will be attached to the back of our house.

We began by soliciting estimates from four different birdcage builders, inviting them over to discuss our project.

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Channeling Mary Kay

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I heard from a gentleman this week who represents many of you. Specifically, he was trying to decide whether to pursue becoming an independent patient advocate – or not – because he wasn’t sure if he knew enough to be able to handle every client situation that comes his way.

He wanted a pep talk. He wanted me to convince him he knows enough.

Yes, it was time to invoke one of my favorite quotations, provided to us by Mary Kay Ash (presumably when she wasn’t out washing her pink Cadillac)

“If you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, you’re right.”

The truth is – it’s not really that simple. In fairness, self-doubt about the ability to do anything new plagues all of us. Whether it was your first job babysitting or bagging groceries, or you’re changing careers at mid-life, or even starting up an encore career at age 60+…  you’re putting yourself out there, you’re testing your own mettle, and you’re taking a risk. The very definition of risk taking means it could go badly. 

But something about his question quite bothered me. It noodled around in my head for a little while, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized he had asked the wrong question.

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Don’t Let HIPPA* Drag Us Down

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Today I’m sharing a beef about HIPAA. Respect for our profession is at stake.

Remember, one of our goals is to become one of THE most respected of professions who work in the healthcare system. Today’s post is an ode to that goal.

HIPAA is the acronym for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.  (It often surprises people to learn that the P in HIPAA has nothing to do with privacy, because that’s the specific reason we must deal with it – for privacy’s sake.)

Advocates are no strangers to HIPAA, even though we are still unsure about whether advocates are considered to be covered entities. It’s something we deal with for every new client. At the beginning of each new client relationship, we ensure that all HIPAA forms have been signed, ready to be handed over to every provider who raises an eyebrow when we appear on the scene to assist our clients.

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“Health Advocate” vs “Patient Advocate”: 7 Reasons the Debate Is a Waste of Time

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Although you may not realize it, there is a debate raging about titles in advocacy. 

I chose this topic today not because I have an opinion on THE right title; rather because I think the debate is a waste of time, and is a distraction from the more important work of helping people understand how advocates and care managers can help them.

The debate is this:  Should we be called Health Advocates?  Or should we be called Patient Advocates?

It might surprise you to know that some people not only have very definite opinions on the answer to that question, but that they argue the point for hours at a time. In my (not so) humble opinion, for every hour they argue, they could instead have promoted advocacy and the many benefits to working with an advocate – no matter what he or she is called.

Here are the reasons I think this argument is a waste of time:

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