I am something of a zealot for extolling the values of community and the need for personal connection. In my work as a healthcare advocate, I find myself urging new or established advocates to join the organizations for advocacy and to attend the conferences. I belong to 3 such organizations: National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants, Washington State Health Advocacy Association, and the Alliance of Professional Health Advocates. It is worth every penny!
Why? Talking to your peers is invaluable in any profession, and in our line of work, there aren’t all that many of us. We get support, validation, and knowledge about our field when we meet and network with each other. This newsletter is about having a support network, building community, and more. It is about improving the quality of care for our clients, smoothing transitions, and getting business at the same time.
I have wonderful advocacy colleagues around the country, but was recently reminded of the value of connection because of a circumstance with a fellow advocate and her client. My colleague, Dianne Savastano, is the founder and principal of Healthassist, a healthcare advocacy firm based in Massachusetts. Dianne had worked with a member of a family on the east coast. When the father, who was living in Seattle at the time, began having health issues that were not resolving, the family asked Dianne if she had anyone in Seattle like her. She readily said that she did, and I was promptly connected to the father in Seattle.
This began a very pleasant and rewarding several months working with my client, whose goal stated at the outset was to move back to the east coast (besides resolving his health issues). We were able to make tremendous headway on the health issues, and only had to delay his move once.
And of course, Dianne and her associate, Anne Jacoby, sprang into action to make the move a carefully thought out and smooth transition, putting all the pieces into place on the east coast. This is the ultimate in coordination of care. I can completely relax knowing he is in the best of hands. Not to mention giving a shout out to his wonderful family both here in Seattle and on the east coast; they are the ultimate community and make it all possible!
This has been such a good example of the value of connection and the reason for community building that I will continue to promote it. I will do whatever I can to give the best service to all of my clients, while continuing to network and connect with my fellow advocates. As Helen Keller once said, ”We cannot accomplish all that we need to do without working together.”
One of the most satisfying aspects of providing medical care for more than 25 years has been helping my patients figure out what is wrong, how to address what’s wrong, and how to navigate the medical maze to get what they need. The satisfaction I’ve derived from solving healthcare puzzles while guiding people through an often complex decision-making process motivated my transition from clinical practitioner to fulltime healthcare advocate.
You are probably wondering what helping patients and their families through the medical maze looks like. The following story of some clients (names and some details changed to protect confidentiality) will help to paint the picture.
A while ago I saw two patients, young to middle-aged women, each of whom had had a back injury at work. I was struck by how all encompassing their symptoms were. Both experienced nearly constant pain of various degrees, limiting their ability to do previous activities in work and in leisure. Both had been treated with a variety of modalities—including physical therapy, chiropractic, and pain meds—with little relief. Both had been told they had reached maximal improvement despite their obvious disability. Although months to years passed before either received authorization for an MRI, the diagnostic procedure indicated that each woman had a bulging disc.
Most of us have experienced back pain at one time or another. In fact, an estimated 75 to 85% of Americans will have low back pain at some time in their lives. In fact, I was once among the walking wounded myself, living with chronic back and neck pain until it worsened enough that I sought medical care. I started to see a wonderful physical therapist who helped me become almost entirely pain free. So I know it is possible to find relief.
So, for these women to be told that they should live with their pain and disability for the rest of their lives is unacceptable. I didn’t believe they had reached maximal improvement and encouraged them not to give up. I advised them to start off by reading Robin McKenzie’s Treat Your Own Back and Treat Your Own Neck and suggested an evaluation by a physical therapist knowledgeable about Aston-Patterning, a form of physical therapy that combines ergonomics, fitness training, massage, and movement education.
The process of healthcare advocacy involves taking a health problem and finding a way around or through the medical maze to arrive at the most positive outcome possible. My job is to provide information and tools that empower clients to confidently select and take the next steps.
If you or a family member are facing a healthcare issue and you don’t know what to do or where to turn, call a healthcare advocate!
Dealing with serious illness and hospitalization can be scary, demoralizing, confusing, painful, unpredictable.
Your father is not his disease. Your mother is not her “medication options.” It's easy to get overwhelmed when people you love are sick and all you want is to help them. You're sailing to a new world where some of the landmarks seem familiar and others disappear.
As a healthcare advocate, my job is to steer you to dry land and clarify your situation, to create a safe harbor where you can focus on yourself and your family. I get questions answered and stand up for you, stand in for you, stand beside you. You have a doctor at your side whose sole job it is to create and implement a plan so you can get the best possible care for who you are, with your specific health needs.
That's what I do: advocate for you when medical care takes over. With a healthcare advocate:
-You never need to undergo a treatment without understanding what it is, why it's needed, and what the alternatives are.
-You have someone to communicate with your care team when you are feeling uncomfortable, uncared for, or unheard.
-Your advocate can translate medical-ese into English, and statistics into solutions.
When the world of diagnoses and hospitals and prescriptions and procedures overwhelms your life, you need someone to make sure that when the doctor leaves the room, you know the next steps.
You need Healthcare Advocacy Partners.
Dr. Sima Kahn muses on being a healthcare advocate, the troubles with our healthcare system, and how to advocate for ourselves.