And the First AdvoConnection Spotlight is on…

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It’s been in the works for a little while, and today we’re happy to announce a new way for some APHA members to promote their capabilities… the AdvoConnection Advocate Spotlight!

Why the Spotlight?

AdvoConnection Directory Listed members are doing wonderful work on behalf of their clients. We wanted a way to tell stories about patients and families who have benefited in so many ways from working with these skilled advocates. Their stories will trigger recognition among potential clients and will encourage them to contact advocates who can provide the help they need.

Meet APHA’s First Advocate in the Spotlight: Nancy Hiatt

Thanks to APHA member Nancy Hiatt, who stepped up to the spotlight plate first. She boldly went where no other member has gone before!  Find her on the AdvoConnection Homepage, then link to her Spotlight page, too.

Each time we have a new spotlighted member, we will feature him or her right here on the blog. You’ll get to know them one-by-one.

If you are an APHA Premium, directory-listed member, we would love to feature you too!  Simply log into your membership dashboard, and find a link to the spotlight instructions.



Do You Protect Your Herd?

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(Warning! Today I’m sharing a personal opinion for which I don’t expect total agreement. But I’m steadfast in my belief. I have science behind me. I’m girded for argument… bring it on!)

When I began my patient empowerment work in 2005, I had little or no understanding of the benefits of getting a flu shot except that – maybe – it would protect me from getting the flu. But I didn’t feel like I was at risk; I lived alone, I worked from home, my kids were no longer in school (where flu runs rampant!), and I was still relatively young. I’ve always hated getting shots, so why should I bother?

It was my right to say NO flu shot for me! And I didn’t get one.

In 2007, I became the patient empowerment expert for, writing hundreds of articles and blog posts each year to teach patients how to become smart patients. My work required a great deal of research into every topic imaginable as it regarded taking responsibility for our healthcare, and making wise choices for ourselves and our loved ones.

Then 2009 rolled around and we began hearing about swine flu… THAT was when I began to learn more about the real need for flu vaccines, their history, how they work, the myths generated by the fearful and conspiracy theorists each year, and – yes – the merits of flu shots.

Since 2009, I have gotten my flu shot every fall. I’ve decided I’m unwilling to take any chances.

Take chances?  For what? (you might ask) My circumstances haven’t changed much since 2009 in terms of possible exposure, so why would I be any more concerned today than I was before then?

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Making the Case for Nonsense

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I suspect this discussion is going to surprise you as much as it surprised me.  The topic is Nonsense, but not Nonsense by its classic definition.  No, this Nonsense is quite different, and, frankly, sometimes it chokes me up.

Just published a month ago, Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing is the title of a new book by Jamie Holmes. Jamie is a Future Tense Fellow at New America, a non-profit, think-tank / forum / media platform that promotes the intellectual study of politics, prosperity and purpose. Part science, part exposé, part business lesson, Nonsense will surely leave you looking at your world very differently. It is extremely well-researched, easy to understand and, truly, just fascinating.

Specifically, Jamie’s Nonsense promotes ambiguity, its great utility for big decision-making, and its role in improved outcomes. And he makes a very good case for it.

Not what you expected, right?

In my lifetime, I have never handled ambiguity well. To me, it’s anxiety-producing limbo. It’s the road to hell – not knowing – not having the answers I think I need – not knowing how to deal with an important situation because I don’t have the important details. To me, ambiguity becomes an additional problem that just exacerbates the original problem. I can’t solve my problem or formulate my plan when I don’t have all the facts.

I raise this today for a few very different reasons. Continue Reading →


Step Aside Pollyanna! There’s No Room Here for You

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This is a message with a little tough love for some of the folks I encounter – Pollyannas – who are choosing advocacy as career move.

Sorry Pollyanna – but there is no room for you in patient advocacy. You have a choice:  you can either learn to overcome your inner Pollyanna or you can find yourself another profession. Pollyannaism can too easily get in the way of the professionalism required of good, competent advocates, and can result in deficient service to clients.

The Pollyanna Advocate

Pollyanna is a fictional character from children’s literature, who is known for always being positive – too positive. Her default is to trust blindly.  She is foolishly and naïvely optimistic.

To be clear – I do believe there is plenty of room for optimism in advocacy!  Clients are happier and well-served by an advocate or care manager with a friendly smile and a positive outlook on life. 

But that’s not the same as the Pollyannaism of blind trust or naïveté. The negative effects of being a Pollyanna in the advocacy business range from substandard client service and outcomes, to advocates going out of business.

Here are a few real-life advocacy and care management examples:

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Merriam Webster, The Who, and Hacking Churnalism

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Today we’re channeling The Who, Merriam Webster and one of my longtime favorite fellow patient empowerment buddies, Gary Schwitzer, who reminds me at least weekly why we just can’t trust the media without very careful review.

As follows:

I love a new word. When this one appeared in my inbox last week, I wanted to share it with you because it’s an important concept for advocates and patients alike.

Today’s new word is: Churnalism. (Take that Merriam Webster!) Churnalism is the product of lazy reporters and journalists who, without further investigation or review, simply reprint (or broadcast) a submitted press release or video roll from companies looking to profit, like pharmaceutical companies or medical device makers, or others looking for donations or grants (called “soft money”) like university or non-profit research centers, or anyone else who might make money by getting their information shared.

I encountered that new word churnalism in this headline, found in Gary’s Health News Review (HNR) newsletter:

Chicago Tribune repost of news release sets new low for churnalism

Here’s the problem Gary and his team at Health News Review address:  “News” is published and broadcast every day that makes its readers and listeners sit up and take notice – and is usually at least partially wrong or incomplete, and therefore misleading.

Health News Review does just what its name suggests. They review that health news: published stories and articles (text and video) produced by mainstream media and those press release submitters, and they rate them according to a list of criteria which, when met, make a story solid, objective news — information that can be trusted. The best a story can be rated is 5 stars. The worst is zero.

Now, it strikes me that churnalism by itself is already the definition of LOW, so to say the repost by the Chicago Tribune was the lowest of low – well – I had to check it out. On the HNR scale – it hit that goose egg, that zero. Ouch.

We have all fallen victim to this deception. We read or hear things we want to believe! We read or hear things that strike fear! But so often we aren’t getting the real truth.

Here are some sample headlines with their ratings:

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Shark Tank, Narrative, Your Audiences – and Success

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I’m a huge fan of TV’s Shark Tank. Not an episode goes by when I don’t learn something about business, investment, marketing or some other tidbit I can use in my work. My favorite “shark” is Barbara Corcoran because I find she bases her investment decisions on smart money-making plus appropriately enthusiastic entrepreneurs who share their stories of passion and work ethic.

This season there is a new shark in the tank, Troy Carter, who prior to this was totally unknown to me. Seems he used to be Lady Gaga’s manager, and is known for media production. He’s certainly on my radar now, big time. Barbara – watch out!  Troy may be giving you a run for your money into my “favorite” position!

Why such a quick pivot?  For the simple reason that one of Troy’s interests in an entrepreneur is “narrative.”  In the episode I watched, two entrepreneurs were seeking a quarter of a million dollars for selling SOCKS (of all things). All the other sharks wanted to know about data and statistics – how many have you sold, how much does it cost to make them, etc etc. But Troy asked them, “What’s your narrative?”

Yes – narrative is important enough even to sell SOCKS!  Yet – it’s barely mentioned in other business circles, at least not using that terminology, and not so intentionally.

But I believe that for us as patient advocates, narrative is one of our MOST IMPORTANT MARKETING TOOLS. So let’s look at it more closely – what, why, when and how.

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When Life Gets In the Way

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Sometimes life just sucks.

At least that’s my conclusion after hearing recently from too many friends who are suffering various horrible things – health related, money related, death related, job related. And that’s just the friends who have shared their sucky situations.

Some of those friends are patient advocates, and among them are some very difficult health situations – cancer, a brain tumor, a stroke, a car accident… sometimes affecting themselves, other times affecting a loved one – a spouse, a child, a parent. I’m stunned, floored, worried, and my biggest frustration is that there is not a darned thing I can do to help any of them except to think good thoughts for them.

But then I get thinking more about their situations and I wonder…. are they prepared for what lies in front of them? I can almost guarantee they are not, and that they never even considered they would reach a point when they were not at the tops of their games, able to help clients and keep their practices growing. None of us ever expects to be faced with such debilitating hurdles; therefore we are rarely prepared to handle the consequences.

What are we supposed to do when life gets in the way?

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Why I Hope These Pigs Never Fly – and You Should, Too

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This is the question that has plagued me as the director of a professional patient advocacy organization since it was first launched.  It’s a question that usually comes from someone who is just thinking about becoming a patient advocate, one who hasn’t yet gotten his or her feet wet in our growing puddle of advocacy, ethics and best practices, although sometimes it comes from a more seasoned, yet not-yet-financially solvent advocate.

It is asked in a hopeful manner, as if it is the answer to prayers – or at least payment.

It’s at the very least naïve,  and at the most it shows a lack of understanding of the realities of the world of services we offer to clients who need us, but are hesitant to hire us.

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