Forum Fireworks Tackle the Question: Who Is Qualified to Be a Patient Advocate?

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Fireworks erupted in the  APHA Forum recently.  I call them fireworks because those involved are so passionate about their work – no matter what their points of view. Fireworks are awe-inspiring and truly beautiful, even if they don’t accomplish much, which is exactly what transpired.

The questions and statements that caused that passion are worth sharing here, because they can help all of us clarify our roles in this growing profession of patient advocacy and navigation.

The initial question was ” I’d love to hear from advocates –like me– who do not have medical credentials –about how you position yourself in the market. Why should someone choose us when they can get an RN advocate?”

What the discussion evolved to was: Who is qualified to offer patient advocacy services?  Who is “good enough” or experienced enough or worthy of the title?  What roles do patient advocates and navigators play in their work with their clients?

And, like in any argume… I mean… fireworks display, there were some bright shining stars, some explosions, some oooo’s and aaahhh’s – and some duds.

I won’t recreate the discussion because, frankly, it stands by itself in points, counterpoints and personalities. But I will provide some commentary to share with everyone, whether or not you are a part of APHA’s Forum, because these are the truths I hold for this marvelous profession which exists to serve the patients and caregivers who desperately need us: Continue Reading →

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Happy Birthday AdvoConnection! Will You Help Us Celebrate?

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Two years ago today, we launched AdvoConnection as the premier directory for patients and caregivers to find a health or patient advocate or navigator, and to support the business starting and growing efforts of advocates.

Happy Birthday to Us!

You might be interested in what this journey has looked like so far:

■  More than 270 people are advocate or pre-advocate members of AdvoConnection.  Most are in the process of exploring advocacy as a career.

■  12 non-profit patient advocacy organizations are registered with AdvoConnection.

■  More than 2,100 people visit the directory site each month in search of an advocate or navigator to help them

■  We have sent out 89 Monday Member Mails to advocate members. (We don’t send them on holidays.)

■  Our advisors (legal, insurance, patient safety, insurance claims, marketing and medical) have answered at least 34 questions from advocate members.

■  We have had to turn away 27 applications for Premium or Basic memberships because we felt they were not ready to appear in the directory (not enough of a track record.)  Most of them have instead joined as PACE members.

■  We’ve held 13 teleconference call-ins on topics ranging from marketing and money to patient safety and insurance claims.  All but one is now podcast on the member site.  (uh-huh, I forgot to turn on the RECORD for one of them.)

■  We’ve helped individual advocates and AdvoConnection itself appear in media galore – from O Magazine to CNN to local newspapers and TV news.

■  We’ll hold our first conference, the AdvoConnection Business Institute, in November.

■  However! We have no idea how many successes there have been – patients or caregivers who found one of our directory-listed advocates and became clients.  We have no way to track them because email and phone calls go directly to the advocate who is listed in the directory.

 And that’s where you come in! Please tell your story below:  If you are an AdvoConnection member*, tell us about a patient or caregiver (or even another advocate) you connected with through your affiliation with AdvoConnection.  Please don’t use names (privacy) – but tell us how the relationship worked out, what benefit there was to your patient, or to you….

(And hey – make sure you link to your website, because this is a great way to help promote your own advocacy business!)

It’s a great way to help us celebrate our second birthday!

*AdvoConnection members only, thank you.

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What Shall We Call Ourselves?

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I’ve just returned from a marvelous week visiting with, and participating in, patient empowerment and advocacy experiences that included activities like video, webinars, panel discussions and pot luck dinners. A whirlwind!

More impressive, however, is the variety of interests and skills of the wonderful people I met and worked with.  From patients, to patient safety experts, to providers, to educators, to administrators, to hospital employees, to – yes – patient advocates.

You can imagine the discussions that took place!  During the week, my brain was going a million-thoughts-per-hour as we covered dozens of topics related to both empowerment and advocacy.  So many great ideas were shared, with some grand ideas for moving forward to help patients.

One theme popped up almost as much as any other;  that is – the confusion over the title “patient advocate” and what it means to those who want to become one – or may need one.

This is not a new question. In fact, in meeting many of you over the past few years, the same concern has arisen…. exactly what is a patient advocate?  How can we use the same title for a medical/navigational advocate as we use for the person who reviews and adjusts medical bills?  or the same title as the person who volunteers for the local (name your disease) charitable organization? or the person who is supposed to provide customer service type services in the hospital (but is employed by the risk management department to allay lawsuits?)  etc etc.

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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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