The Health Advocate’s Olympics

Like many of you, I have been glued to the Olympics for more than a week. I stay up very late every night (and have to drag myself out of bed in the morning!) to watch athletes who can twist or turn or propel their bodies in ways that seem practically inhuman. A mix of awe, pride, respect and, when it comes to Chinese badminton players, incredulity.

Watching the athletes and the competitions, I realized there are some metaphorical similarities between what they do, and what we, the pioneers of the profession of private health advocacy, are working to accomplish, as follows:

> Invisible Preparation

These athletes, no matter what country they hail from or what their personal background is, have spent years preparing for the opportunity to compete in the Olympics. We don’t see them. With few exceptions we don’t even know they exist and are devoting their lives to the pursuit of their Olympic dreams. Then when the Olympics roll around, they must perform at the very top of their games.

To our clients, our preparation is the same. We are working and working to improve and perfect our service delivery. But until patients really need us, they don’t even know we exist. And once they find us, they expect us to be at the tops of our professions, available to improve the quality or extend the quantity of their lives.

> It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

No, I’m not talking about the 50 meters vs the 1600 meters, or the 100 meter dash vs the long distance runners here…. instead I’m talking about the long term investment in creating a worthwhile service business.

I hear from newly-in-business advocates who are frustrated because their phone isn’t ringing the moment they print their business cards. They think that just because they say they are in business means they should be busy and successful. That’s not so different from me stepping outside my front door and running to the end of my street, then wondering why I can’t be eligible to run in the Olympics. Or wondering why, when I say “no” to a yummy looking brownie (especially the ones with cream cheese frosting!) I don’t instantly drop 50 lbs.

Starting and building a solid business isn’t a sprint. It’s a long-term time commitment to slowly but consistently growing and building our skills, successes and reputations. It’s devotion and hard work. Then, when the patient-needs-me Olympics come along, we’ll be ready.

> We Represent Different “Sports” But We Are on The Same Team

Some athletes are gymnasts, some are runners, some are swimmers, some play volleyball while they are practically nekkid (please note that I say that through jealousy, pure and simple!) But they are all superb athletes and grouped together, they represent nations.

Some advocates are med-nav, some are billing advocates, some are mediators, or pain specialists, or help clients tackle legal problems that result from their debilitations…. but we all play for the Private Health Advocates Team, like our own nation of advocates. (I’ll start working on a flag and an anthem…).

It’s been fun to see athletes from one sport in the stands, or on the beach volleyball court, observing sports that aren’t their own, too. The Canadian athletes rooting for other Canadians, the Americans rooting for other Americans, and so forth. They support each other, they even attempt each other’s sports. They are there for each other.

As advocates, sometimes we can’t do it all for our clients. It’s great to observe those aspects and skills we don’t have ourselves so we can find someone to pitch in when we need support in those areas.

In total, we represent the concept that patients can benefit from improved outcomes with the healthcare system when we all work and play together nicely.

> Within Our Team We are Friendly and Respectful Competitors

One aspect of the Olympics I’ve enjoyed is seeing the camaraderie and respect the athletes have for each other. Gymnasts who hug and kiss one another – then compete for the same gold medal. Swimmers and others, too… the point being that their status as competitors doesn’t mar their ability to be friendly, respectful and supportive.

This is similar to “coopetition” – a concept I’ve written about before, which we advocates make use of in our work.

> We All Want to Be the Best at What We Do

Perhaps the closest parallel between our advocacy efforts and the athletes’ pursuit of medals is that we all strive to be the very best at what we do.

Amen. That needs no further explanation.

No doubt you can think of other parallels between the Olympics and our pioneering efforts at building this new profession of private health advocacy… If you can, please share them below.

For now, I think I’ll go take a nap. Tonight promises to be another late one! Go Team USA!

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