Just Where Is that Privacy Line?

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This week we were contacted by two major TV news outlets requesting interviews with advocates – one a national broadcast outlet, the other in Chicago. As we do when we receive these requests, we immediately alerted those Premium members who are on our Opportunities & Alerts notification lists so they could respond if they fit the profiles. In both cases, the media were looking to talk to APHA members – and even more so, client-patients of our members.

These requests came on the heels of a post in the APHA Discussion Forum expressing concern over problems that could be caused by having a Facebook page. The poster was worried that if a patient asked a personal health question on the advocate’s Facebook page, it would cause a HIPAA privacy violation, and she didn’t want to run that risk.

Then came an email question from a member: how can we, as advocates, claim we value client privacy, then turn around and expose them to the media? Of course, the underlying point to the question is about exposure for our own advantage, to promote our advocacy work.

Two great questions! And inspiration for today’s blog post.

The answers aren’t difficult to understand, but there are a few moving parts, as follows:

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Leading By Example

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Long time readers of this blog know that when it comes to private advocacy, I preach the gospel of learning to run a business.  I know – it seems counter-intuitive sometimes. But it’s true; that being a successful business owner is often less about being good at the core business, products and services one offers, and more about practicing good business tenets.

So, I have spent the last week leading by example. And today, I am so very ready to get back to working with advocates instead! 

 

APHA Members may remember the announcement a few months ago:

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Why It Takes So Long to Acquire a New Client

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We live in an instant gratification world, don’t we?  I suppose we could harken back to BF Skinner’s hungry rats, then combine that with the expectation of instant answers we get from the Internet to understand why we, as human beings, want and expect everything to happen the MOMENT we want it to happen!

Think it… will it… snap your fingers – there it is.

This concept came to mind after a conversation with my husband. He recently retired from his field engineering career. He loves to golf and fish and this time of the year, doesn’t lack for anything to do or play. But we also knew that if he didn’t have something to keep him busy the rest of the year he would drive me nuts with his nothing-to-do. (I know some of you can relate!) So together we have launched a new business for him, all internet based, advertising funded, and great fun.*

This week we were discussing the progress (or lack thereof) of acquiring advertisers for the site. I am thrilled at our progress. After all, we have been online for only a few months, we average about 50 visitors a day which, for a new site, is actually quite good. But we need lots more content and lots more visitors before we hit our stride with advertising.

But he is frustrated because he doesn’t think enough paid advertising is coming our way. Why is it taking so long? Why don’t all these potential advertisers think we are the best thing internet advertising since sliced bread? Why aren’t they sending us all their advertising money yet?

At that point I realized – that’s exactly what I hear from new advocates.  Not enough clients, not fast enough – resulting in frustration, and then, too many that just give up their practices because they didn’t anticipate they would have to wait so long.

Patience!  Please!  Patience!

For budding advocates, there are two main reasons the acquisition of a new client takes so long.  Let’s take a look at them.

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Don’t Let These Headlines Be About You

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It happened again this week.  And as I first suggested last Fall, Ripped from the Headlines…. a Warning for Health Advocates, Too we advocates need to pay attention. This isn’t one of those “Oh, that won’t happen to me” moments. It’s easily preventable, and only very wise to do so.

I’m referring to attacks on real estate agents, this time in St. Petersburg, Florida. Two agents showing homes just a few miles apart were attacked at gunpoint, tied up, and robbed – and traumatized.  I don’t think any of us can imagine the horror.

The perpetrator has not been caught (yet) – he’s still out there.  And I guarantee you that today there are real estate agents showing homes by themselves to individuals they have never met – because they all think it can’t happen to them. Fools.

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Non-Payer? Or Scammer? A New Step for Client Engagement

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We hear about scams and frauds every day in the news. An elderly person is convinced to donate money to a scam charity, or doctors defraud Medicare, or someone’s identity is stolen, or the IRS’s website is hacked….

Thing is – like car accidents – we never think a scam can happen to us. So we simply, and naively, go about our days and our business thinking we are somehow immune. We are such nice people, so very giving, and can’t imagine anyone would ever try to take advantage of us…Right?

No. Wrong. Wrong, and expensive.

One of our APHA members confessed to me last week that she had completed almost $6000 worth of work for a woman in another state who needed help with a social security disability filing. She began the relationship well and correctly, sending a contract for signature, and insisting on partial payment up front. But the woman was so very desperate, pleading…  deadlines came up swiftly and needed to be met…… the advocate felt trapped by the desperation and deadlines, jumped right into the work and got it done. The client collected $21,000 in disability payments!  Great job, right?

But the uncrossed T’s and the undotted I’s are now coming back to bite the advocate in the backside… because the client never did return the contract with her signature, paid only $500 to get started … and now refuses both her signature and payment for the remaining balance. Not only does she refuse to sign, or pay, but she is now disputing whether the advocate really did any of the work, claiming she did most of it herself.

Say what?

That’s when the advocate contacted me, wanting to know what recourse she might have to collect. In her email to me she made a statement that provided me with one of those lightbulb moments – OMG – this signals the need for a whole new step in an advocate’s prep for working with a new client.

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Surprising Wisdom from Chipotle Will Make Your Day

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About once every five or six weeks I splurge on Chipotle for lunch. Love it – guacamole and all (Have you tried their corn salsa? Yum.)

On my most recent visit, I did something I had never taken the time to do.  I read the take-out bag. That’s right. If you have never purchased take-out at Chipotle, you may not know that there is a great deal of what looks like plain old text on the bag. I had never paused to read it, assuming (uh-huh) that all that text was just promotional in nature – and who has time for that?

But I was so wrong! 

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Twisted Words Put Me Off

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Within the past few weeks, I have had one phone conversation, and have exchanged an email, with two different people who are hoping to and working to become advocates, both exchanges which resulted in very negative takeaways on my part.

And then I wondered – how many of the rest of us do this same thing, even if we never intend to come across the way we do? And if we do it, no matter how unintentionally, does it give patient advocacy a bad name, or a black eye?

Those twisted words are actually a response, or the intent of a response most of us run into every day. All that is required to fix it is a slight difference in response which results in a huge difference in the impression it makes.

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Misleading Headline Provides an Opportunity

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This week the Chicago Tribune featured patient advocacy as a growing trend – a marvelous exposure to private advocacy for the uninitiated (uninitiated = most of the known universe).  Several of our APHA members were mentioned in the article and for the most part, it was an excellent representation of the status of private advocacy.

Except for the headline:

tribheadline

Now, most of us are intelligent enough to know that headlines are created to suck in readers, and too often, intentionally focus on some point that doesn’t really represent the story – just draws those readers.  And so it was with this headline, too.

It’s unfortunate, because too many of us are guilty of seeing a headline and drawing conclusions, without ever really reading the story. There may be millions of Chicago Tribune readers who saw only the headline and didn’t read the story, and therefore won’t consider contacting a private patient advocate because – as per the headline – they think it will be too expensive to pay for that help. 

Sad, but true.

But that headline did one thing very well. That is, it gave us a good opportunity to explore the concept of “costly” – and turn this negative into a positive. 

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