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?
Last week, we announced a new partnership: AdvoConnection and a newly launched company called CarePlanners. CarePlanners will be providing advocacy services across the country to clients who need any sort of service to make their interface with the healthcare system work more smoothly, from helping them dissect and learn more about a diagnosis, to sorting out or reducing their medical bills, to helping their doctors coordinate their care.
For those of you who received an email from me (and if you are an AdvoConnection member, you should have found that announcement in your email), you know that my excitement about this partnership is the fact that CarePlanners will put health and patient advocacy and navigation on the map. CarePlanners’ outreach will change the conversation from “What is a patient advocate?” to “I need to find a patient advocate.”
Most of the response to this announcement has been very positive. “Woo Hoo!” came one response. “This is great news for all patient advocates!” from another. “Thank you for helping us get the word out.” Very enthusiastic reactions.
But one of the advocates who responded is more tentative about CarePlanners’ launch. Her reaction was more lukewarm, as in, she fears the competition. She explained that while she understands the enthusiasm, she is mostly worried about the impact CarePlanners could have on her business. She’s not sure she buys in to “the rising tide lifts all boats.”
And I suspect she’s not alone in her concern. She’s just the only one who voiced it.
My response to her was that different clients have different needs and different wishes, even if they actually require the same services. Some are looking for “Cheers,” where everybody knows your name. Others, needing a place to refresh and socialize, will choose Starbucks, where they can still hang with their friends, but appreciate knowing ahead of time exactly what to expect whether they live in Portland, Maine or Escondido, California or anywhere in between.
Or maybe they’ll choose Dominick’s or the Olive Garden.
The real key is that they know that some days what they want and need is Italian food – and immediately know which restaurants will qualify. Or they need and want to socialize with friends while enjoying an adult beverage (alcoholic or not) and they immediately think of Starbucks and their local version of Cheers. Then they choose, according to their own tastes.
Not everyone’s taste is the same.
And someday they will know they need and want a patient or health advocate, and they will learn that they can choose your company, or CarePlanners.
(Of course, all this assumes that you are still doing what you need to do to build a reputable business. Certainly you can’t be your local advocacy Cheers or Dominicks if clients aren’t satisfied by the services you provide to them.)
The bottom line is that whether or not CarePlanners will ever be your true competitor, it will also be a blessing to have CarePlanners arrive in your area. CarePlanners’ arrival will step up the conversation, and will make the concept of advocacy more mainstream. Instead of worrying about what to do next, patients in your area will ask “where can I find a patient advocate?”
And that is a major (huge) step in the right direction.
Perhaps you can think of additional great metaphors to describe the very positive news about the launch of CarePlanners> If so, please share your thoughts in the comments section.