Private, Independent – and Potentially Confusing

There is a drug I take, which I have taken for years, which I order from one of the large mail-order benefits companies. Every 90 days or so, I log on, wend my way to ‘refill your prescription” and wait for a few days until it arrives. It’s a beautiful thing.

Last week – not so much.

Last week I tried to order my refill, and instead got a notice that they don’t have any in stock! Not only that, they weren’t sure when it would be in stock again. Say, what? This is a standard, everyone-takes-it generic type drug. Nothing fancy. And they don’t have it in stock?

So I phoned to find out when it would be in stock. After pushing all those “if you’d like to do this, then press this” numbers, the final message was to “Please hold for a patient care advocate.”

A patient care advocate? (Hold that thought).

Eventually, my “patient care advocate” answered, and told me that, no, they had no idea when they would have my drug back in stock, and that if I had less than three weeks worth on hand, I should probably get a new script from my doctor for a 30-day supply to fill locally.


So I phoned my doctor’s office to ask them to provide that for me, and this time I was put on hold to wait for a “Patient Care Representative.”

A patient care representative? (Another thought to hold)….

Which brings me to today’s point. (Your patience has paid off….)

Everybody and their brother and sister is being called an advocate these days – no matter what form of advocacy, to what extent, they really perform.

Which makes me realize how important it is for US – those who work one on one with individuals who need our help, to distinguish the fact that we don’t work for anyone else; we work only for our clients and their best interests.

We don’t work for pharmacies or pharmaceutical companies.

We don’t work for hospitals or medical practices.

We don’t work for insurers or payers.

We are PRIVATE and we are INDEPENDENT of those ties and the potential conflicts-of-interest that result.

And we don’t want our clients, or potential clients, to ever be confused about whose best interests are our interests, too.

So that’s this week’s message. As private and independent advocates, it is more important than ever that we use one or both of those words – PRIVATE and/or INDEPENDENT – in not only the explanations of what we do (think elevator speeches) but probably in our branding, too.

“I am James Smith, Independent Patient Advocate” or

“My name is Margaret Brown and I’m a private health advocate” or

“XYZ Health Advocates, Private, Independent, and Working for You”

Consider adding one or both of those words to all your marketing materials to be sure you are distinguished from others who may call themselves advocates (and who are, but only within their limitations). Your business cards, your website, and any other materials you may create.

Our marketplace is already confused, and we are so new that we have the opportunity to distinguish ourselves early.

It’s up to us to be sure there is no confusion about where our allegiance lies, to be sure our clients are always clear on who we work for – just them. So, my fellow independent and private advocates – let’s do it!

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APHA Blog : The Alliance of Professional Health Advocates
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