In the patient empowerment corner of my world, a complaint or fear I hear voiced by patients is the fear of retaliation. They are afraid that if they speak up to their doctors, or ask questions, or make their own decisions, then they will get substandard care. The provider will be so upset, he or she won’t provide what the patient really needs.
I call this The Waiter Will Spit In My Soup Syndrome.
I’ve never had a conversation with someone who can identify a time this actually happened to them – where they got care that wasn’t up to par because they advocated for themselves. But I have heard from people who were dismissed by their doctors (I call that a provider divorce). I’ve even heard from people who were blackballed or blacklisted by providers. That makes it a question of quality of care – or a total rejection of care.
And the truth is – it doesn’t matter why a patient is fearful of sticking up for himself. It’s his perception. It’s wrong. And something needs to change.
YOU can be the change agent. YOU can be that buffer – the person who runs interference between the patient’s fear of retaliation and making sure she gets exactly what she needs.
I know – you’re probably saying, “Well – duh! Of course! That’s what we do!”
But I’m going to take this concept to a different level.
I think you need to use this fear in your marketing.
Raised best in a conversation, I think it can be a direct question from you that makes the client think about it, and then makes her realize that you are the very solution she needs.
Hazel, do you ever feel reluctant to ask your doctor questions because you’re afraid he won’t like it if you do?
Henry, is it possible you hold back on your concerns because you don’t want to upset your doctor?
Being so direct will help them realize that you truly get it. You understand why they think they aren’t getting what they need, and that they feel too vulnerable to do anything about it.
Your next statement will be focused on making sure your vulnerable patient knows you can fix this for them – providing reassurance that you are the person who can form that bridge between them and their doctors without any possibility of retaliation – only positive outcomes. You’ll be doing the facilitating, but you’ll be empowering them.
Beyond the fear of retaliation, there are other reasons patients need the assistance of an advocate, too. Check them out (see links below) and learn to tap into them so you address them directly. The key is to help potential clients understand that hiring a professional patient advocate – you! – will make them feel less vulnerable, as if they have more control than they have without you.
> Learn more about why doctors dismiss (divorce) their patients.
> Learn more about blackballing and blacklists.