A Patient Advocate Is Just Like….

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In a conversation with a group of friends, Lisa told us she has decided to buy her first house. She feels like the market is right – prices are low, interest rates are low – so why not take the plunge?

We responded by providing advice to her based on our own experiences with buying homes. “Be sure to get it inspected.” “Shop around for mortgage rates.” “Sign a contract with a buyer’s agent, otherwise your interests won’t really be represented.” “Beware of shortsales and bank repos because I’ve heard really bad things about those on the news.” … and more …

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The Option of Saying “NO”

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Several months ago I wrote about the tendency of big-hearted advocates to over-extend themselves with volunteer work; that when someone needs their help, but doesn’t have the means to pay them, they don’t know how to say “no.” We looked at some of the ways to get past that inability in order to keep our businesses moving forward.

Truth is, that is only one of the circumstances where “no” is the right answer.  That’s true whether it is us, as professional advocacy business owners who must choose to say no, or whether we must help our clients choose “no” if it is possibly the right answer for them.

The business “no” is not unusual and will seem very simple once you understand it.

But the client “no” is often overlooked – and you truly owe it to your clients to not only understand it, but to help them understand, and sometimes embrace it, too.

Here’s a business “no” example:

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YOMs – and That Sense of Entitlement

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It arrived in my email a few days ago – a demand for a reply.

It came from a person who reads my articles at About.com.  She had sent me a question the day before regarding  trouble she was having getting copies of her records from her doctor. I had not yet responded to that email.

The second one arrived, shouting in capital letters:  WHY DIDN’T YOU ANSWER MY QUESTION?  I SENT IT YESTERDAY AND YOU HAVEN’T ANSWERED IT YET!

There it is.  A simple example of that sense of entitlement we all seem to be dealing with.  I get it in email.  You, as a patient advocate, probably get it more from phone calls from potential clients.  They phone you with questions – and think you should just give them the answers they need, as if you have time to just sit by the phone and answer questions for people, for free, day in and day out.

Like you owe them something.

Some even get mad if you don’t give them what they want!  One advocate told me about a phone caller who “ripped her a new one” because the advocate wouldn’t go to the caller’s home to try to convince her husband that he needed medical care.

Another advocate shared an experience with a potential client who was upset that he would be charged for her advocate services.  “That’s what I pay my taxes for!” he exclaimed.

Let’s call them YOMs, as in, You Owe Me!

There are a few reasons I can think of for the existence of YOMs:

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Advocating – It’s Like Nailing Jello to a Tree

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(No – that’s not Dad in the photo – but this gentleman is quite representative!)

Last week I shared notes from my father’s hospital bedside as he began his recovery from back surgery.  The majority of his hospital stay was safe and successful, although we continued to have big problems managing his pain throughout.

Dad was discharged to a skilled nursing center to convalesce and begin rehab.  He’s well on the road to recovery.  We have much to be thankful for.

As mentioned previously, my work does not typically include helping individual patients with their healthcare challenges.  I write and speak on advocacy topics, but one-on-one is not how I spend my typical day… So this hospital experience with Dad was quite the eye opener.

And what I learned is that being a successful patient advocate means learning how to nail jello to a tree.  (Just picture it….)  And it raised my esteem even further (if that was possible!) of all of you who work side-by-side with patients every day.

I do not know how anyone gets out of a hospital alive without having an advocate by his or her side.  OK, I don’t think it must always be a paid, private advocate who pitches in.  A family member, or someone who knows about the necessary safety measures will be able to catch most of the smaller problems.  But I learned that for those of us who are not experienced, it is impossible to anticipate the “saves” that professional advocates perform. And the magnitude of those “saves” is what is important.  They can be life-saving.

Some examples of the ones I caught:

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Notes from the Hospital Bedside

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Dad had back surgery Friday morning.

As many of you know, I don’t ordinarily work as a patient advocate. My work is about supporting patient advocates – so I look at these kinds of experiences as opportunities to learn, and to use some of the excellent advice I’ve learned from many of you over the years.

I’m relieved to say – I haven’t had much opportunity to make a difference!  Dad’s care has been quite good.  So, as his advocate, my last 72 hours have been…. well…. boring.

But there have been a few things I have observed, and a few things I’ve learned, to share with you. And two “saves” that may have been important – although – I prefer to hope they made no difference. More about that in a moment.

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