We Get By With a Little Help from Our Friends

ringo(Can’t you just hear Ringo in your ear? and yes, if you understand that reference, you’re dating yourself!)

This week I was reminded several times about all the folks who are trying to develop their patient advocacy practices on their own, thinking they need to conquer it all by themselves.

They don’t. They shouldn’t. And they run the risk of failing in business until they start thinking differently.

Here’s why:

  • Patient Advocacy is a time-intensive, hands-on undertaking. Each client needs a great deal of attention, usually immediately. Yet time isn’t something we can find more of; there are still only 24 hours in the day.
  • Patient Advocacy is intense, and no one person can be that intense 24/7/365. To stay healthy ourselves, physically and mentally, we need down time, and relaxation time, self-care time.
  • Life happens. We all deal on occasion with family emergencies or last minute “surprises”. Like times we ourselves might get sick, or when a family member needs us.
  • Patient Advocacy represents many skills and broad knowledge, far more than any one single person can know or do by him or herself.
  • (add your own reason here)

Unfortunately, too many of us learn this the hard way. An accident, a sudden illness, a death in the family….

If you were pulled away from your business tomorrow, who would keep it afloat for you?

Then there is the prospect of the “wrong” kind of business for your practice.

Let’s look at that point about skills and knowledge. The skills needed to review your clients’ lists of medications are not the same skills that are needed to sit by their bedside in the hospital, or review their medical bills, or argue with the insurance company, or mediate family problems, or help them alleviate their pain.

One person cannot be good at all those things. So what do you do when someone calls you, and the services they need are not the ones you offer? Do you simply turn them away?

I hope you don’t try to handle it all yourself. The goal is to handle the parts of your work that you are skilled at, and then….

That takes us to today’s advice. That is: find others who can help out, pick up the slack, pitch in when you need an assist.

No, I’m not talking about hiring employees, although when you grow large enough that might be exactly what makes sense. Instead I’m talking about establishing partnerships (not like a legal, corporate partnership; rather, a less formal approach) to help you handle your workload.

A partnership might look a little like this:

You know that your strength is medical navigation. If a prospective client calls needing help with understanding his treatment options, you might be THE person to do that for him, and oh-by-the-way, you can review his meds, too.

But what happens when someone calls you for help negotiating a lower hospital bill? Or they tell you they are having trouble with Mom and now the family is squabbling over which nursing home she should go in?

Knowing there are aspects of advocacy, services needed by clients, that you don’t handle yourself or can’t handle yourself, the smart move is to make arrangements with others who can and will help you when the opportunity arises – ahead of time.

That might look like this:

You make a list of the basic services that you know you will need someday that aren’t your core skill set. You can look at the master list of services we display at the AdvoConnection Directory site to see what they might be.

Then begin looking for other advocates to help you out in those areas* – before a potential client calls you. You might go so far as to pull together on an independent contractor agreement so that task is already behind you when you get a call.

Ideally your skills will compliment each other so that you can trade services back and forth, relieving you both from feeling as if you have to “do it all.”. Not only are you helping each other out, but your clients will be better served, too. Further, if somehow you get called away, or sick, or some other huge hurdle stands between you and your work, you’ll have someone who can pick up the slack while you tend to your personal business.

Perhaps the best aspect of working with subcontractors or independent contractors (in this case, those are two names for the same relationship) is that someone else is doing the work, and you can still make money! That’s the beauty of expanding your capabilities in this way. One model would tell you to figure out what you will charge your client, then build your contractor agreement so that the contractor gets 90% of the money and you keep 10% (or some other, similar arrangement.)

*So how can you find these gems to partner with? That’s one of the best benefits of belonging to an organization like the Alliance of Professional Health Advocates. Specifically we’ve just launched what amounts to a matching service right on the membership site. Premium members can promote their skills to other members who might want to partner with them. Premium and PACE members have access to the lists of skills.

If you are a member of APHA, log in, scroll to the Quick Links to FIND HELP FROM FELLOW APHA MEMBERS.

If you aren’t a member, well…. what on earth are you waiting for? Join us!

And you, too, can get by with a little help from your friends.

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