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Revisiting Education and Patient Advocates’ Certification

December 4, 2011 Leave a comment

Attendees at our recent AdvoConnection Business Institute had a variety of topics and issues they wanted to discuss.  Follow up surveys and emails produced even more, including some questions that, over time, will be answered to our best ability.  Some will be answered during teleconference call-ins, others through our fabulous advisors, and one or two will be addressed right here on the blog.

One question that pops up frequently regards certification.  As I’ve written before, and as is true today, there is no such thing as a nationally recognized patient advocacy certification –  period.  Therefore, there is no such thing as a “Certified Patient Advocate.”

However, from the conference, came this question, “If you go through a certificate program, you are not a “certified patient advocate?” Why the certificate program then?”

I believe this question comes from a misunderstanding about why certificate programs exist.

Patient advocacy certificate programs do not exist to create “certified patient advocates.”  They exist to fill holes in one’s knowledge.

When considering health advocacy as a career, it’s rare that most have the ability to go into business with no preparation.  The key, before they start, is to go through a list of what they still need to learn.

Possibilities:

Read more…

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Putting WOM to Work for You

November 27, 2011 Leave a comment

One of our AdvoConnection members got in touch after a talk he gave to his local Rotary Club.  He was disappointed in the turn-out and wondered whether all his effort was worth it.  After our brief email conversation, it seemed that sharing some of the important points might be a good idea since you might run into some of his same issues.

Those issues are based on presentation and expectations.  So let’s take a look.

Public Speaking, whether there are 5, 50, 500 or 5000 people in attendance is a great form of WOM – that is, word of mouth marketing.  In fact, there is no more powerful form of marketing than word-of-mouth. And perhaps the best part – not only is it free (the cost comes in time and effort, but not money) – but sometimes, when you get good enough at it, you might be paid to do public speaking, too. Public speaking may not be word-of-mouth in the traditional sense (someone else’s word from someone else’s mouth) but it’s WOM nonetheless.

Here’s why WOM is so powerful for patient and health advocates:  it creates a sense of trust.  People hear you speak, they see who you are as a person, they observe how well you think on your feet, and they decide for themselves what your capabilities might be.  That sense of trust is huge for our patient-clients who are putting their lives, and their money, in our hands.

Our member’s concern was that he had been promised many more attendees would be there. He had worked with the Rotary Club president on the topic, “ObamaCare” and was told there would be 15 – 18 people in attendance.  Only 10 people showed up.

When he told me the title of his talk, I cringed, Read more…

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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FOR PATIENTSFOR ADVOCATES |

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.

Read more…

Tooting Your Own Horn, and Playing a Tune People Want (and Need) to Hear

October 2, 2011 Leave a comment

My last two posts have focused on why it’s important for those who want to succeed as private patient advocates realize that their success won’t rely on just their advocacy skills.  The bottom line is that success is NOT about an advocate’s skills.  Success is dependent on the balance of perception, needs and knowledge on the part of potential clients and the capabilities of advocates to fulfill them.  And that means that success is dependent on the advocate’s understanding of how to run and promote a business.

In other words:  Succeeding in the business of private patient advocacy requires two things:  good advocacy and good business.  Neither can stand by itself.  Good advocacy without business won’t succeed.  Good business without good advocacy won’t succeed.

Last week, we took a look at two representative advocates to illustrate the concept;  Dorothy Anderson is a former NICU nurse who hopes to help families with at-risk newborns make their transition home as safe and healthy as possible.  Kurt Schaefer is a former hospital billing specialist who hopes to help people reduce their hospital and other medical bills.  Both have impeccable skill sets and capabilities.  But neither is succeeding – because they are not business-minded.

For balance sake, let’s try a third example.  Katherine Lee is an entrepreneur who has decided patient advocacy is an up-and-coming field. Her business sense tells her that she can hire people with minimal skill sets, teach them how to be advocates, begin working on insurance plans to try to corral reimbursements, and pretty soon she’ll be chunking off her own pieces of the health insurance money pie.

It will probably upset you to learn that Katherine has a much better chance of initial success than either Dorothy or Kurt does.

Read more…

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:

Read more…

Got Business? AdvoConnection One Day Business Institute – Reserve Your Spot Now

September 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Most members of AdvoConnection are aware of the upcoming Business Institute, but for those of you who aren’t members – you are invited, too!

The cost to attend goes up this week, so this is the time to make your commitment.

Topics will include legal, insurance, marketing, tools, money and certification.  Here are some of the questions we will answer:

• Do you have the right insurance at the best price?
• What forms do you need and what makes your contracts legally binding?
• What’s the latest on certification issues?
• How can you deal with business problems your client poses, like not paying his bill, or refusing to sign important paperwork?
• Does your website put your best foot forward?
• What’s the best approach to social media marketing?
• How can you best price your services?
• How should you approach clients about payment?
• What does the IRS expect from you?
• What are some inexpensive ways to reach the right potential clients?
• What other types of services might you be able to offer?
• Who else is out there to help you improve and grow your business?

We’ll have plenty of opportunities for networking, too – including speed dating! (sort of…..)

And – a very special surprise guest will provide our keynote speech.  Join us – because there won’t be a dry eye in the place.

We do hope you can join us!  Thursday, November 3 in Berkeley, CA.

Learn more – and register here:  www.AdvoConnectionConference.com 

(I look forward to meeting you!)