What Private Patient Advocates Can Learn from Paula Deen*

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pauladeenHey y’all!

If someone had asked you on the June 20, 2013 to describe Paula Deen, you might have described her as a bubbly, vivacious, popular Food Network star, author, well-merchandised cook or chef.  Whether or not you liked her, and no matter what you thought of her approach to food, you at least had to admire her empire and popularity.

Over the next week, her empire collapsed, seemingly because she fessed up to using the N-word during a lawsuit deposition.*

The bigger they are, the harder they fall.  It makes no difference whether or not Deen’s fall was fair or right. It happened.  It remains to be seen whether she can recapture what she had.

We can think of other well-known people who have “fallen” too.  Tiger Woods, OJ Simpson, even Martha Stewart and Bill Clinton.  With varying success they have come back to their original popularity, although for the rest of their lives, their names will always be accompanied by an asterisk.

Do you see any patterns?  Except that they were all “big” – until they weren’t – it seems their only similarity is that each made a misstep, even though their missteps were entirely different.

But let’s look at the bigger picture here, because it’s through the bigger picture that you’ll see why this point is important to you and your patient advocacy practice.

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We Get By With a Little Help from Our Friends

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ringo(Can’t you just hear Ringo in your ear? and yes, if you understand that reference, you’re dating yourself!)

This week I was reminded several times about all the folks who are trying to develop their patient advocacy practices on their own, thinking they need to conquer it all by themselves.

They don’t.  They shouldn’t. And they run the risk of failing in business until they start thinking differently.

Here’s why:

  • Patient Advocacy is a time-intensive, hands-on undertaking.  Each client needs a great deal of attention, usually immediately.  Yet time isn’t something we can find more of; there are still only 24 hours in the day.
  • Patient Advocacy is intense, and no one person can be that intense 24/7/365.  To stay healthy ourselves, physically and mentally, we need down time, and relaxation time, self-care time.
  • Life happens.  We all deal on occasion with family emergencies or last minute “surprises”.  Like times we ourselves might get sick, or when a family member needs us.
  • Patient Advocacy represents many skills and broad knowledge, far more than any one single person can know or do by him or herself.
  • (add your own reason here)

Unfortunately, too many of us learn this the hard way.  An accident, a sudden illness, a death in the family….

If you were pulled away from your business tomorrow, who would keep it afloat for you?

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With a Nod to Dr. Phil – How’s That Workin For Ya?

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drphilTrue confession here – I am not a HUGE fan of Dr. Phil’s. However, in the early years of his TV show I used to watch on occasion and felt like he made some great points about the choices we make and how we live our lives….

Here are some of my favorite Dr. Phil-isms:

  • No matter how flat you make a pancake, it’s still got two sides.
  • You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.
  • That dog don’t hunt.
  • Opinions are like asses. Everybody’s got one!

And then there’s the one I find most applicable to decision-making, when things just don’t seem right and I’ve come to a crossroads…

  • Just how’s that workin’ for ya?

During the past few months, facing one specific difficult decision, that saying has rung in my ears many times. Eventually, just this past week, it resulted in a big change for the Alliance of Professional Health Advocates too.


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Going to Jail, Spinning Plates, Peace of Mind – and You

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platesSuppose you are asleep one night, and the police break down your front door, yank you out of bed, arrest you, and take you off to jail….

What would you do?  Who would you call?  It doesn’t matter whether you are innocent or guilty – you have been blindsided by something unexpected, and now you have to deal with it by managing a system you know nothing about….

I suspect you would call a lawyer to help you through it – right?  A lawyer is the person who can at least provide the peace of mind that knowledge of the system and a vested interest in YOUR outcomes provides.

A personal health emergency, or being called to attend to a loved one in a health crisis, whether it’s a spouse, an elderly parent, a child – any loved one – when there is an emergency, or a dire diagnosis, or a “turn for the worse” – it is just like being led off to jail.  No one plans for it, no one has room in their life for it, and very few people understand how to manage the system to get what they need from it.

For patients, loved ones and caregivers – YOU, as a patient advocate, are the equivalent to the lawyer in the scenario above.  YOU will be the one who provides the peace of mind that only the knowledge of the healthcare system and that vested interest provides.

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Sharing Healthcare’s Dirty Little Secrets

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secretI’ve just written a post at About.com about my recent mammogram experience where the breast center I’ve gone to for more than a decade managed to dissolve my trust of their service in the span of one phone call.

Is it possible that they were being honest and I have no reason to lose my trust in them?  Yes, of course. Maybe I’ve jumped the gun – or maybe not. But it doesn’t really matter.

Because whether they deserve my distrust or not, I will never trust them again. No, not a chance. (Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get me.)

And so it struck me as I was writing that post that the very fact that I have become so distrustful of them suggests a place where advocates can actually create more trust for themselves.


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