If I Could File a Lawsuit, I Would

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blindfoldI’m really angry at the investment firm Morgan Stanley – really angry.  I have had to deal with them since my father died, trying to manage and move a small IRA my sisters and I inherited, and they have done their utmost to make that impossible.

I’ve told the story at my About.com blog because the bottom line is – if there was such a thing as a financial services advocate, I would hire him or her.  That’s a great lesson for patients, with similar concepts applied to their medical care, and will hopefully make some of your phones ring, too.

But I’m so angry and frustrated by my experience with Morgan Stanley, that if there was such a thing as filing a lawsuit over their behavior, I would file one. Within this experience are some lessons for advocates, how we handle customer service, and how we keep ourselves from being sued.

You can read some of the story here. I’ve listed some of their transgressions, but not the worst ones. In that About.com post, I didn’t talk about the contracts they insisted I sign – “immediately or we’ll miss the deadline!” – in which they had already checked off boxes that made choices I would never make. Fine print, intended to trick me? Or the fact that I almost had to pay penalties because Dad had not taken a minimum distribution for 2012 – a fact pointed out to me in the 11th hour – a question I never would have known to ask.

I’m so angry, in fact, that I’m writing about them publicly and naming names. I’ve threatened to report them to the SEC. You don’t EVER want your clients to become so angry at you.

At the root of my anger is, that just like your clients and potential clients, I don’t know what I don’t know, and Morgan Stanley is treating me like a mushroom – keeping me in the dark and feeding me, well, animal waste.

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Clearing Up a Misperception About Patient Advocacy

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carrepairIn an email conversation recently with the administrator of a new advocacy program (which will open up to new students in Fall 2013), I was asked where I saw the role of health and patient advocates within the healthcare system.

I had to think about that for a few minutes.  I decided that I don’t see advocates as being “within” the healthcare system at all. Our role is actually from the outside, looking in – and that’s where our successes for our patients can be found.

Here’s why:

The necessity of advocacy services comes as a result of the dysfunction of the system. Because the system is so dysfunctional, it requires a positive force from outside it to manipulate it in different ways to improve patients’ outcomes. (I’ve talked about this disruption before.) If all we did was work inside the existing dysfunction, then I don’t think we could be very successful.

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Time to Kick Start Your Advocacy in the New Year

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10tasksLike most of us, I get quite introspective the first of each year.  Not so much in the making-resolutions sense.  Rather in the “it’s time to get going” sense – after the pause of the holiday season.

For 2013, I see big things in our futures of helping the people who need us, and improving their access and outcomes from the healthcare system – no matter whether it’s the American system, Canadian, British, South African or Australian.  (Did you know The Alliance of Professional Health Advocates has members from all those countries?)

And in that vein, I’m trying something a little different – combining a benefit for APHA members with an opportunity for non-members.

I’ve published a booklet:  10 Important Tasks to Kick Start Your Advocacy Practice in 2013.  It’s full of good advice with that one goal – to bring you out of your holiday funk and light a fire under you. The 10 tasks include some practical, useful business tasks, marketing tasks, and common sense reminders, all with “how-tos” and good resources for making them happen.

This booklet will only be available for a limited time. 

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Healthcare System Challenges in 2013 Create Opportunities for Advocates

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newyearThe healthcare times, they are a-changing!

As we wrap up 2012 and look forward to next year (or perhaps, by the time you read this, it will already be 2013), there are a number of issues and challenges patients – our clients – need to be concerned with.

Take the time to become familiar with these updates and challenges, alerts and warnings; they may create marketing opportunities for you as you alert potential clients that you can solve them as a part of your service.

I’ve written about them here: Some are simply updates to how the system is managed now. Others are warnings. From the changes in the system due to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare), to the increasing difficulty patients are having finding primary care, to the shifts in how doctors do business due to the implementation of electronic medical records, to new tricks and wool-over-our-eyes tactics health insurance companies are using to deny coverage for patient care, and finally, the influence of new resources – like technology and yes, patient advocates.

How can you use them?  Continue Reading →


Holiday Hospital Dangers Spell HERO for Patient Advocates

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heroThere is no time like the present to keep your clients out of the hospital. Just raising the issue may make you a hero to them.

I realize how dramatic that sounds, but bear with me here.

Think about any workplace you’ve ever worked in during the holidays. Employees, even customers, are not nearly as focused on the work-at-hand as they are during non-holiday times. They may be taking sick days or personal days off (shopping and baking take precedence!), they may be leaving work early to see their kids in the Holiday Concert at school.  They may be laughing and joking about how someone behaved at the office party the night before, or maybe they are distracted by thoughts of the shopping that isn’t yet done, or the in-laws (who they never really get along with) who are arriving tomorrow.

And that’s the point. There are dozens of time and thought-consuming distractions during holiday times. Then, as the holiday date draws closer, the most senior staff members (if not everyone) begin checking out for days or weeks of vacation time. Important questions go on a shelf until those folks return to work. Less senior staff, or part-timers, are the ones left to make snap decisions when called for, no matter how dire those decisions are. They make them to the best of their ability, but there’s always a question about whether they are making the right decision.

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