This post asks the question: At what points do we go to the wall for our patients? And when we need to go there, what’s the best approach?
Scenario: You’ve accompanied your patient-client to a medical appointment and the receptionist is rude to your patient when you check in. Do you say or do anything? And if so – how?
Scenario: As you sit by your patient’s hospital bedside, a nurse comes in to change a dressing already wearing gloves. You ask her to wash her hands and put on new gloves and she cops an attitude. Do you insist? And if so, how?
Scenario: Your client needs to make a very difficult medical decision and has asked for your help to weigh the pros and cons, and to uncover additional possibilities. You’ve walked him through all the possibilities – including those the doctor provided, and others you learned about through some research you did on his behalf. His choice is not the same as the doctor’s recommendation, but when he gets to the appointment with his doctor to share his decision, the doctor tells him he’s making the wrong decision. Clearly uncomfortable, your client begins to backpeddle, to default to what the doctor has recommended. Do you speak up on your patient’s behalf? And if so, where do you start?
If you know and understand healthcare reform in the United States, please raise your hand and shout “I do!”
<<hmm… I hear crickets…>>
That’s right. There is no one who understands it, including Kathleen Sebelius (Secretary of Health and Human Services), or Donald Berwick (nominated to lead CMS). It’s too complex, too long and frankly – just plain daunting.
But we are healthcare professionals. We make our livings understanding healthcare systems. So if we are confused by the complexity of healthcare reform, just imagine how patients and caregivers feel! Add to that all the changes going on at the state level regarding healthcare, including home care and nursing homes, and what do we have?
Last week we recognized Private Professional Patient Advocates Week, and across the country, some great stories showed up in newspapers, on TV, online and in radio broadcasts sharing stories of patients and caregivers who have been helped and the advocates who have helped them.
Some of the stories, both reviewed last week and over the past few years, are amazing – high end cancer protocols that were never mentioned by physicians, but were brought to patients by their advocates. Complementary therapies, and wellness strategies that patients feel have been useful to them. Thousands of dollars …
Patient advocates and navigators are my heroes.
As such, I am thrilled to announce the first Private Professional Patient Advocates Week (planned to be an annual event) – a week of recognizing the talents and contributions of the several hundred private patient advocates across the US and Canada.
“Thrilled” may actually not be strong enough.
Over the past couple of years, I have had the privilege of meeting dozens of private advocates – people who are dedicating to smoothing the difficult path through the healthcare system. They lead their charges to improved health, they protect them from medical errors and infections, they help their patients learn and understand more about their diagnoses and treatment options, they explain pros and cons to help patients make choices, they juggle appointments among providers and review medications to be sure conflicts aren’t creating problems when the intent was the opposite. Then they save them money or at least make sure it’s being spent wisely.
And that all happens before lunchtime.
It seems like a week isn’t enough time to provide due honor. Patient advocates and navigators devote their lives to improving the lives of others. There is no more noble calling.
As we prepare for Private Professional Patient Advocates Week next week, I’ve been asked by a handful of people what the difference is between a private patient advocate and any other health advocate.
It’s an important question, and the answer is actually quite simple.
The difference between a private patient advocate or navigator, and those found in hospitals, through insurance companies, or other places, is what I call The Advocate’s Allegiance Factor. It’s based on who is producing the paycheck.
Private patient advocates are paid directly by the patient or the patient’s caregiver and have only one allegiance – to the patient. The patient’s needs, whether they be medical, navigational, financial or locational – are the prime concern of the patient advocate. Period.