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.
As private, independent health advocates are very aware, there is no nationally (or internationally) recognized certification for our profession. As such, there is no recognized – or expected – set of behaviors or standards for our profession either.
What exactly does that mean, and why does it matter?
Let’s put ourselves in our potential clients’ shoes for a moment.
With no rules and no set of expectations – what makes potential clients think they can trust us? They find an advocate’s name online, talk to them on the phone for a few minutes, and – what? Send them money? Put their faith, health (and possibly their lives) in that advocate’s hands? Based on what?
When a patient goes to the doctor, that doctor has a list of credentials that at least say “OK – this doctor went to school, passed tests, and probably knows the stuff you need him or her to know.” Those credentials include degrees, certifications and licenses. The same is true for many other service providers – from realtors to teachers to hairdressers….
But not health or patient advocate or navigators. Granted – those advocates and navigators who have nursing or physician backgrounds have a good start. But still… no nationally recognized set of standards for the profession of health advocacy.
Something I’ve noticed over the past two years or so is that people who write to me for help seem to be getting increasingly belligerent when they don’t like the information I share, or reply to their questions or requests.
A woman wrote to me through my About.com Patient Empowerment site, asking me to please make a phone call to her psychiatrist to tell him that she needed a higher dose of Xanax. I replied to her to say that first, I don’t work directly with patients – I write and speak and run an organization. Further, that I would never consider phoning someone’s doctor to tell them what to do! Further, that I don’t deal with mental health issues at all – I just don’t have any sort of knowledge bank that could help me do that. I was polite, I suggested she make a list of reasons to share with her psychiatrist that might help him help her, etc. She wrote back…
There is a drug I take, which I have taken for years, which I order from one of the large mail-order benefits companies. Every 90 days or so, I log on, wend my way to ‘refill your prescription” and wait for a few days until it arrives. It’s a beautiful thing.
Last week – not so much.
Last week I tried to order my refill, and instead got a notice that they don’t have any in stock! Not only that, they weren’t sure when it would be in stock again. Say, what? This is a standard, everyone-takes-it generic type drug. Nothing fancy. And they don’t have it in stock?
So I phoned to find out when it would be in stock. After pushing all those “if you’d like to do this, then press this” numbers, the final message was to “Please hold for a patient care advocate.”
A patient care advocate? (Hold that thought).
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: