Of Honor and Yardsticks

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yardstickIf anyone decides one day to research and write the history of private, independent patient advocacy, they will likely put the genesis of the profession as 2009, when the first two advocacy organizations, NAHAC and APHA / AdvoConnection were launched.

Of course, there can’t be such a thing as an organization unless there are people who are looking to be… well… organized.  I don’t know how many members NAHAC had when it opened its doors, but APHA / AdvoConnection launched with about 30 interested parties, of whom perhaps a dozen were already working successfully as privately paid advocates.

We’re still in the early years. We still consider ourselves pioneers.  But it is on the shoulders of those who were already helping patients that we continue building and expanding our profession.  Importantly, we look to those early advocates to define and measure excellence in our profession; they are our YARDSTICKs.

Among the pioneers was Ken Schueler who was not only a giant among advocates; he was a giant among human beings. After his own – successful – battle with Stage 4 lymphoma in the early 1990s, Ken left his high-profile job with UNICEF to start his own advocacy practice, focusing on helping people diagnosed with difficult and rare cancers. Within a few years, he had established a global reputation for his work which put patients at the center of their own decision-making based on clinically researched, evidence based treatments – not just mainstream, traditional treatments, but when available, alternative and complementary approaches, too.

Importantly, Ken didn’t limit his work to the individuals who hired him. His contributions to the profession are seen every day through the Health Advocate’s Code of Conduct and Professional Standards.

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Learn Something Every Day

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snowflake
© 2013 Barbara Friedman

Today I’m going to brag about my sister – to make a point.  I expect it will embarrass her a little (no intention to do that) but she illustrates something very important – a good lesson for us all.

Barbara (Torrey) Friedman, decided a few years ago (2010) that she’d like to learn a little something about photography.  “A little something” has now become a skill that is, simply put, awe-inspiring.

And yes, that’s a photo she took two days ago of a real snowflake, one of bazillions that fell in Ithaca, NY where she lives. Think about it. She captured ONE. And of course – it’s unique!  Beyond the fact that no two snowflakes are exactly alike, the photo is – too – uniquely Barb’s.

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Yes Barb’s photography is superb. You can enjoy more of it here. And even more of it here – all 1,022 images she has put online so far.

So what does this have to do with patient advocacy?

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Insurance Reimbursements for Patient Advocates?

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paperworkThis is one of those questions I’m asked frequently which recently popped up again: When will private patient advocates be reimbursed by insurance?

In fairness, the question is usually asked by either those who either aren’t advocates, or are in the very early stages of thinking about patient advocacy as a living. They haven’t been exposed to the issues involved on a regular basis, so the obvious answers aren’t so readily apparent.

But whether you’re a total newbie, or you’ve been dancing in advocacy circles for awhile, there are two answers, at least for now:

•  probably never

•  hopefully never

If those answers surprise you, then you don’t know enough about health insurance and/or you don’t understand one of the most important attributes of private, independent advocacy.

Health insurer reimbursement for private, independent advocates would not only create a conflict of interest, but would drive most advocates out of business. In any case, reimbursed advocates would no longer be private NOR independent.

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Don’t Let the YesButs Stand in Your Way

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Man showing tongue upside down .This post is dedicated to all our APHA members and non-members who have been infested with YesButs.

What’s a YesBut?  A YesBut is the answer to all those questions and suggestions intended to help them build their practices that they prefer to not think about. Further, it’s the answer that, until these same advocates find a solution, they will not succeed.

I wish I had a dollar for every YesBut someone fires back at me!

  • YesBut they need the help so badly and they don’t have any money!”
  • YesBut I’m afraid to quit my fulltime job until I’m making enough money to support myself!”
  • YesBut if the doctor doesn’t want me in the room, I don’t want to upset him.”
  • YesBut they get so unset in the hospital billing office when I ask questions!”
  • YesBut my client just calls out of the blue and an hour later we get off the phone. She’s so sweet, and I can’t just hang up on her!”

You get the picture.

Now – to be clear – there are some circumstances under which a YesBut is a perfectly appropriate answer.

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‘Tis the Season to Extend Your Outreach

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thanksgivingWho hires you to be their advocate?

Now – don’t worry – I’m not about to launch into paragraph upon paragraph about target audiences and motivation.  No – I’m gonna make this one real easy.

In this case, the answer is that it’s rarely one person who decides to hire you.  No matter who your usual target audiences are – seniors, the elderly, adult children, parents…. the answer today is that families and loved ones come together to consider hiring an advocate for a loved one when they recognize that loved one is having challenges related to their health and medical care.

  • Spouse discusses the idea with sick spouse.
  • Adult son discusses the idea with sister to hire an advocate for parent.
  • Brother considers hiring an advocate for brother – or sister for sister or another combination of siblings.
  • Friend recommends an advocate to very sick friend.

But here’s the important part:  They only have this discussion if they know advocates exist to help out to begin with!  So that’s the focus here – to let families know you are available.

Now – at what time of year do families tend to spend more time together than any other time?  Of course – the end-of-the-year holidays. Thanksgiving, Hannukkah (or, in 2013, Thanksgivakkah), Christmas, New Years….

This year, daughter will realize that elderly mom just can’t cook one more Thanksgiving dinner.  Older mother will realize that daughter who lives across the country just can’t fly home each time Dad has another “episode.”  Sister will discuss with sister-in-law her brother’s heart condition and their fear that he may have another heart attack.

One of our marketing best practices is that “timing is everything.”  So how can you leverage the knowledge that so many families will spend time together over the next six weeks to put yourself and your capabilities to help them in front of as many families as possible?

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