2017 State of Patient Advocacy and the Alliance of Professional Health Advocates

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As we kick off 2017, let’s look at the past year in review. What is the status of this profession of health and patient advocacy?  How well is APHA serving the needs of patient-clients and its members?

We began 2016 with a similar reality check.  The bottom line was that our profession is growing, but not nearly fast enough!  The need for our services is so very much larger than the number of people to fill it. That status has not improved; in fact, the need is bigger than ever before.

In that same vein, but without including the more “ancient” history that post included, here are some stats for you to peruse this year, in hopes you’ll see the need to launch your own advocacy practice (if you haven’t already done so) – or expand its scope (if you are already in practice) – in order to be there for the vast numbers of patient-clients and caregivers who need us. Continue Reading →

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An Advocate’s Website Checklist

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As we close in on the end of the year, many of you are (or at least should be) in the process of reviewing your marketing plans in preparation for the new year.

Others among you, those who are just getting started with building advocacy practices, may be looking at ways to improve what you’ve started (or maybe you even just hope to get started!)

Among the marketing tactics we should all be using is a marketing website. In fact, except for finding public speaking opportunities, your website is arguably THE most important piece of marketing you can use.

Most of you realize that, and appropriately put your efforts into building effective websites. During the past few weeks, I’ve been asked to review a handful of advocates’ websites. Unfortunately, I have had to say no – there has just been no time to do so.

So I thought about how could I help out without getting myself into a time pickle… and began writing…

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Charge More! It’s Good for Everyone (Including Your Clients)!

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It’s the question I’m asked by newbies more frequently than any other:

How much can I charge?  (BTW – what they really mean is – How much can I make?)

To answer those questions in 2014, I posed these questions:

  • What is it worth to find someone who can provide quality to a life that has little or no quality because of health problems?
  • What is it worth to find someone who can save you tens of thousands of dollars, or to prevent you from going bankrupt?
  • What is it worth to find someone who can alleviate your fear and provide peace of mind?

The answers were straightforward:

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Shooting Your Advocacy Practice in the Foot

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Readers of this blog may remember that my husband and I have been in the process of moving – from Upstate NY (where they had 40 inches of snow last week!) to Central Florida. (No, no snow here so far 🙂 )

Moving is a bear – there are no two ways about that. Ours took place in two stages: first to a rental house, putting 75% of our household goods into storage. Then Stage Two, this past week, moving into our newly built home, bringing our goods out of storage. Now, of course, we’re trying to make our way through all those boxes, put everything away into its new place, learn to live in a new space, dig through the chaos that any move entails, all the while wailing “This is the last move! No more! Too much!” 

Many of you have been there, and done that.

As I did during the early part of the move last spring, I’m going to share with you a couple of lessons gleaned along the way of the move because they are about working with people – the bread and butter of any advocacy business. They are so important, they can make or break your business.

The moving business is a service business, just as advocacy is a service business. Moving is extremely stressful just as any healthcare challenge is stressful. That makes it incumbent upon any service provider who supports clients going through stressful events (from advocates and medical providers to movers) to make stress relief part of their jobs.

The basics of stress relief are communications and consistency. You have to do the work, and you have to do it well and correctly, of course. But if you can’t communicate effectively, manage expectations, or be consistent, well – you are shooting yourself in the foot. Lack of those basics will undermine your success.

I would never again hire The Mover who moved us from New York to Florida. The reasons provide some excellent lessons for today’s post.

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What the Presidential Election Results Mean for Patient Advocates

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When President Barack Obama ran for office in 2008, healthcare reform was already an enormous and contentious topic.

In those days, I was invited to speak to dozens of groups of patients and caregivers to help audiences sort out the issues that comprised healthcare reform so they could, on their own, decide which aspects (if any) were important to them. From the concept of “universal” healthcare through a public option, to coverage for pre-existing conditions, to portability, tort reform, free vaccinations to develop “herd immunity,” and many more, we looked at the whole of the topic as objectively as possible.

Before I started each talk, I would challenge audiences to figure out which side I was on by the time we were finished – reform? or no reform? It gave me great satisfaction that a show of hands at the end usually resulted in about a 50-50 split, demonstrating as much neutrality as I had been able to muster. It was somewhat surprising, because I was very much in favor of reform and truly not objective about the subject at all.

What I never mentioned to any of my audiences was this: that the bottom line for patient advocates was that healthcare reform was, simply, job security.

The reason: no matter what became of healthcare reform (and, of course, history tells us it became Obamacare, AKA the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or the ACA) – no matter what decisions became the law of the land, Americans were going to be confused by it all. They would be confused about costs, access, costs, access, access, and of course, costs, all of which could have huge detrimental effects on their health and care.

The more confused they became, the more they would need a health or patient advocate to help out.

Thus, job security.

That brings us to the 2016 presidential race, and victory for the candidate who said he will work to repeal the ACA.

No matter what your feelings about the outcome of last week’s presidential election, there are a few things advocates can take to the bank:

  • The healthcare system will go into further upheaval as the ACA is dismantled.
  • Patients and caregivers will find themselves more confused and frustrated than they have ever been.
  • The moneymakers in the system will seek new ways to maintain and grow their own profits, shifting and being shifty, making it even more difficult for patients to get the care they need at a cost they can afford.
  • The demand for private, independent advocates will grow – even more – and there won’t be enough advocates to help the patients and caregivers who need them.
  • Yes – all this adds up to even more job security.

We can’t anticipate exactly what changes will be made, but that doesn’t really matter. People are scared and confused now – today – because they just don’t know what to expect. They didn’t know before the election and they feel even less in control now. Even through the ACA, pricing has gone up in most states, and people feel like they are getting less and less for their money. Their confusion and frustration (and anger) is going from bad to worse.

They need help. They want help.

If you are absolutely serious about growing a successful advocacy practice, then NOW is the time to prepare. There will be no better time in history to establish your practice (if you haven’t already) and to expand it (if you’re already in business.)

Here’s how.

If you are just getting started:

If you’ve been in business for awhile:

For all professional advocates:

riper

What are you waiting for?

LEARN ABOUT APHA MEMBERSHIP | FIND MORE REASONS PATIENTS NEED ADVOCATES

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Revisiting the Question: Advocate and Proxy, Too? Making Decisions for Clients

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Two years ago we asked whether a health/patient advocate can also be a decision-maker for her client in the form of being a healthcare proxy (the patient-designated person who makes end-of-life decisions for the patient, based on wishes the patient has legally documented). Since the ethics and standards of the original advocate role very specifically state that an advocate WILL NOT and CAN NOT make decisions for a client, would the new role of proxy create a conflict-of-interest?

The scenario shared was that “Gwen” had been Mrs. Smith’s advocate for a long period of time and they had developed a close relationship. Mrs. Smith, at the age of 90, wanted Gwen to be her healthcare proxy to help determine (if necessary) when it was time to allow Mrs. Smith to die, instead of conceding to the healthcare system’s attempts to keep her alive at all costs.

Could those two roles be performed by the same person? We didn’t answer the question. Instead, we used the opportunity to develop a best practice by asking for input and opinions from those in practice at the time. The question:

Continue Reading →

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Carly Simon, Ketchup and an Advocate’s Secret Sauce

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Many readers of this blog (members of The Alliance of Professional Health Advocates) know we’ve been burning the candle at both ends trying to complete the build of the new APHA membership website.  Short of raising my two daughters, I think it’s the biggest project I’ve ever undertaken – just enormous – hundreds of resources and thousands of pages – and I’m happy that it is now complete! (Or at least as close as it will ever be – these things are never truly complete.)

Along the way, I’ve learned a few lessons about how to approach the work that can help you, too. And here is the bottom line to those lessons:

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Like Putting Ponze in Charge of My Retirement Savings – a Rant

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I live and work in Florida now. For the first time in my adult life, I live in a state where there’s a real possibility that my vote in the upcoming presidential election will make a difference. As a result, when I sit down to watch TV in the evening, I see a constant barrage of the most objectionable commercials. This candidate bashing that candidate. “Facts” that aren’t facts. Claims that have been disproved over and over again. Detestable.

You may be surprised to know that THOSE commercials aren’t the ones that upset me the most!  In fact, I no longer even hear or see them. I sort of gloss-over, or just get up and do something else.

<Beginning of Rant>

I’ve noticed, however, that during the past week, a new sort of horror has crept into TV commercial-dom.  That is – health insurance plan commercials, heralding the arrival of open enrollment, and featuring all new ways to dupe the public!  THOSE commercials are the ones that upset me even more.

Why?  Because they feature smiling faces, they make claims that they have “thousands of doctors” in their network (they all do, or they wouldn’t be in business), or that people with their insurance can get free preventive care (we all can – it was mandated by passage of the ACA/Obamacare), or that their plans are low-cost (no they aren’t – none of those plans are low-cost), etc.

But the part that really fries me – and the impetus for today’s rant – is one insurer’s claim that their customers can enjoy free consultations with the insurer’s “care managers“… As if that is some benefit to them!

Seriously?

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