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When Is Potential Competition the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Your Business?

February 12, 2012 7 comments

One of my favorite restaurants is an Italian place called Dominick’s. The food is always delicious, the pasta, sauces and dishes are homemade (you cannot beat their meatballs!), the wait staff is always friendly and the prices are fair, too.  It’s a family place, with a busy bar and a glass-fronted bakery case with the most sinful-looking desserts. There’s only one Dominick’s, and sometimes it’s so busy that the wait can be well more than an hour. (I’ll bet you have a Dominick’s in your town, too, even if it’s called Antonio’s, Nick’s or Enzo’s – great places to eat!)

Just up the same boulevard as Dominick’s is the Olive Garden.  Of course, the Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant, too.  Even though the food is quite different, it’s also excellent. There are many similarities to Dominick’s; the Olive Garden is a family place, may require a long wait and often sports a busy bar.

But as we all know, the big difference between Dominick’s and the Olive Garden is the difference between the personal and the corporate. There is one and only one Dominick’s.  There are hundreds of Olive Gardens. While you might find very personalized service and delicious food in both restaurants, their approach to their businesses and how they grow their success is very different.  Yet, they co-exist up the street from each very nicely, both serve their customers very well, and both are very successful.

So now you’re wondering what Dominick’s and the Olive Garden have to do with health and patient advocacy, right?

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This post has moved.  Find it in its new location at:

http://advoconnectionblog.com/2012/02/12/when-is-potential-competition-the-best-thing-that-ever-happened-to-your-business/

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Why We Should Avoid Using the Title “Certified Patient Advocate”

December 11, 2011 4 comments

It’s a big question among patient and health advocates – whether or not someone is considered “certified” as a patient advocate. Last week I answered a question that came from an advocate about why someone would bother taking a course or finishing a program if they wouldn’t be considered “certified” at the end….

But there are even bigger considerations – some food for thought for those who disagree with my stand about claiming certification.

I believe the use of “Certified Patient Advocate,” in these early stages of the profession’s development has the potential of hurting both you, as an individual advocate, and the potential of hurting the profession, too.

Here’s why that “certified” title hurts both the profession and you, too:

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Clarifications and an Update on the Schueler Compass Award

November 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Just so you know we pay attention, three important concerns have popped up about the Schueler Compass Award, the award recently announced at the AdvoConnection conference.  These concerns came in the form of replies to the survey we took after the conference was over.  Since the surveys were completed anonymously,  and since comments expressed by one person may represent the thoughts of many, we’ll address them here, publicly, on the blog.

Concern 1:  Posted among the survey results about the conference in general was the following:

There was alot of conversation about the KS awards going to 2 members who will be on this board. Most individuals I spoke to felt that if these 2 women were chosen, then they should not have been on the board to choose the candidates.

My response to this question:  I had hoped to be very clear during the conference announcement that the first three winners of the award were chosen only by Alexandra Schueler, Ken’s daughter, and me (Trisha Torrey). Our goal for the first winners was to find the people who, first, would illustrate the ideals the award stands for, and second, were good friends of Ken’s. Further, we needed to address the balance of clinical and non-clinical advocates. We hoped they would accept the award, and then agree to serve on the committee to choose subsequent winners.

And that’s exactly what happened.  Further, none of the three of them knew they were receiving the award until the day of the conference.  If you know any of them well, they were as surprised as anyone was!

Concern 2: From the same comment above, it continued:

It was not clear what the critieria was for the award & it seems to make sense to have the candidate also be someone who does alot of volunteer advocacy… Just some thoughts, but I believe some ideas should go out to the Premium Members… Several expereinced advocates seemed very disturbed by the way this award was handled…

The criteria are clearly spelled out on the website and on the application.  Of course, at the conference, due to time constraints, we listed only the titles for each of the attributes.

As for whether volunteerism should be included as one of the important attributes:  it’s good feedback and by all means, volunteerism can be considered in another year by the committee.  For now, if you want to include volunteer advocacy on your application, then do so in either the Empowerment or Community Visibility descriptions.

Concern 3:  Time. The original deadline for application for the Schueler Compass Award was December 1, giving advocates about one month to apply.  Complaints were made that we aren’t allowing enough time, especially with looming holidays… and because we don’t want someone to miss applying due to time constraints, we are moving the deadline to January 15, 2012, providing an additional six weeks.  You may nominate yourself (which is what we expect most of you will do) or you may nominate someone else.  The dates for decision-making and subsequent public announcements have been moved forward to accommodate for the new application deadline, too.

I hope this clarifies these concerns.  The award is meant to honor both the winners and Ken, too – but another important intent is to set a lofty bar for others to aspire to.  Recognizing individuals for their achievement of these high ideals elevates the entire profession.

We hope you’ll make application soon to be considered for the Schueler Patient Advocacy Compass Award.

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Patient Advocacy on the Cusp of the Tipping Point

November 14, 2011 3 comments

A tipping point:  a dictionary definition will tell you that it means “the crisis stage in a process, when significant change takes place.”

And for patient and health advocacy – we are almost there.  Almost at the tipping point.

I first learned the term when I read Malcolm Gladwell’s book by that title, The Tipping Point.  I learned that the term is borrowed from epidemiology.  That is, when a contagious organism infects enough people to go from just a few sick people, to hundreds, or thousands or millions – the tipping point occurs in that modicum of space or time, when all of a sudden it switches from almost epidemic to being an epidemic.  It’s when that threshold is crossed.

Another way of looking at it comes from Hollywood – when an “overnight success” is recognized, even though he or she has been acting, singing or performing for many years prior to that point. But that point between when few know who s/he is and millions recognize his/her name – that’s the tipping point.

Tipping points don’t happen by themselves.  They require a set of circumstances that make the tip happen.  Gladwell describes types of people who make them happen:  connectors, mavens and salesmen, all of whom have a role in helping a concept cross that threshold to become mainstream.

In the past week, two people have shared links that indicate to me that we are almost there.  Both are quotations from well-known or well-regarded people who have identified or described what patient advocates are doing, thereby moving us closer to the mainstream.  These aren’t people who are involved in patient advocacy, meaning these quotations are in no way self-serving.  They are observational – and powerful.

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And Above All – Establish Trust

October 24, 2011 Leave a comment

For many years I’ve heard from patients across the country with questions about their healthcare. Not medical questions; rather questions about something in the healthcare system that isn’t working the way they want, or expect it, to work.  They can’t get their doctors to answer their questions, or the insurance company has turned them down for a test or treatment, or they got a bill they didn’t expect – or – ______ (fill in the blank with hundreds more questions!)

There is one theme that runs through every question;  that is – a lack of trust. In every case, the reason they are turning to me is because they don’t trust either an answer they’ve been given, or they don’t trust the person or entity who gave them that answer, or both.

A trust gap has developed, a chasm really, that’s growing wider, between patients and the traditional system of obtaining healthcare. The more they need, whether it’s more medical care or more answers about that care, the less they are getting. That widening chasm represents rationing – of care and communication.  The more care and communication are rationed, the more frustrated patients become and their trust erodes even further.

When vulnerable people can’t trust, then they become desperate. That’s often the point when they go in search of someone to help, and more and more frequently, that person they are hoping will help them is one of us – a patient advocate.

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The Distinction that Can Make All the Difference

October 9, 2011 1 comment

Many of you, despite the fact that you are excellent advocates with outstanding patient advocacy skills, will not succeed as private advocates, because you don’t understand one important distinction.

Doesn’t really seem right, does it?

So what’s that distinction?  Well, it ties into the ongoing discussion about who does, or does not, have the capability to provide the skills patients need, and who will, or won’t, be able to do the work – that discussion about patients’ needs and fulfilling those needs.

Let’s look at it this way first:

Colleen has always loved houses, and has been the admin in a real estate company for almost 30 years. She has handled details upon details for others – from seller contracts to purchaser contracts, from arranging for home showings, to making phone calls to rustle up inspectors, to retrieving signs from a “sold” property’s front yard.  She knows her stuff, she’s done it all, she’s seen it all, and now she’s decided she wants to do real estate work on her own.  So Colleen quits her job, and goes into business for herself.

Colleen approaches her business very professionally, doing all the stuff she thinks she’s supposed to do.  She makes up business cards and some flyers.  She builds a website.  She lets everyone in her neighborhood and her church know that she’s got decades of real estate experience, and now she’s ready to help them list or buy a house. Yes, her phone rings on occasion, but… The business just doesn’t come in to support her well enough.  Eventually she takes a part time job so she can pay some of her bills.  But, of course, if she’s at work at her part time job, and people call her for help right away, she misses the opportunity.

Six months later, Colleen is forced to give up her dream of being in business for herself, doing what she loves and is passionate about.  She can’t support herself and the phone just doesn’t ring often enough.  But she just doesn’t understand it – Colleen can’t figure out why she can’t build a business.

What Colleen missed, the reason she can’t succeed, is the same reason many of you who read this will go out of business, too.  Until you recognize it and act on it, you are doomed to fail (unless, of course, you win the lottery and can be a patient advocate for free, with no worry about income….)

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

September 19, 2011 8 comments

Fireworks erupted in the AdvoConnection 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 inital 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 AdvoConnection’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:

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