Part II: The Dirty Dozen Skills, Abilities, and Attributes of Successful Health and Patient Advocates and Care Managers

Yes, Part II, as promised in our first installment last week when we began with the first four attributes of successful advocates.

Find Part I of the Dirty Dozen.

Which of these describe you and your abilities? Which of them don’t? Where do you go from here? Do your own assessment!

Part II: Abilities of Success Health/Patient Advocates and Care Managers

5. Health and patient advocates and care managers have an intimate understanding of the healthcare system.

Important – I do not mean you must understand medicine. In fact, you really don’t need to understand medicine – as in diagnosis or treatment – to be successful. That’s why you don’t need to be a doctor or nurse or have another clinical background to build a successful advocacy practice. Successful advocacy is about understanding THE SYSTEM, not medicine.

You must understand how to work the system to get your client what she needs. That may mean you know the least expensive MRI locations, or it may mean you know how to get an appointment with Dr. Specialist. It may mean you know how to work with insurance reps to get a claim approved, or it may mean you know how to find better pricing for Mrs. Smith’s prescription drugs. Maybe you need how to access a hospital’s chargemaster, or line up DRGs, CPTs, and RVUs.

The best advocates understand that the answer to the most vexing of situations their clients encounter can usually be solved by following the money, then creating an alternative – even if that alternative requires making a promise or a threat to whatever barrier stands in the way. (See Part I: Assertiveness and Chutzpah).

Notice that none of those things are medical. However, that does take us to…

6. Successful advocates know that they might not “know”. Knowing one’s limits is such an important ability that it actually affects all aspects of our work, whether the work is directly for a client, or for ourselves. Knowing what lies outside your own area of competency is just as important as knowing what lies within.

Piggy-backing on the #5 ability above – if you don’t understand medicine, then it may be vitally necessary for you to contract with someone who does. If you are (or hope to be) an advocate who will work directly with clients for medical navigation purposes, then you must find at least one other professional who does have that clinical knowledge to help you help your client when medical knowledge is required.

Otherwise, how will you know whether Mr. Jones has been provided with all his treatment options? Or if it’s possible Mrs. Rodriguez is taking two drugs that conflict? Or if Mr. Nguyen’s side effects require a phone call to the doctor?

  • You do not need to have a clinical background to be a successful advocate.
  • Similarly, you do not need to have run a business in a previous life to be a successful advocate.
  • Nor do you need to be able to draw up a legal contract on your own or develop a website, or any of those other skills that are required for your success.

But you do need to be able to say “Hey – that’s not something I know how to do so I’m going to find someone who does”… which takes us to #7….

7. The best advocates know how to uncover the best resources. They know when a task requires a skill or knowledge they don’t have which, if they tried to perform it themselves, would require them to perform outside their own competency. As importantly, they know how to find the right person who can help their client.

They know when their client needs more input in order to make the best decisions for him/herself. They know when Mr. Ruiz’s hospital bill is too high and when to call in the medical billing experts to review. They know when it’s time to consider a clinical trial, and therefore connect with advocates who do just that; who can find clinical trials that “fit.”

They even know when it’s time to hire a web developer because even if they “can” use one of the canned web development apps, they shouldn’t. And they know when a lawyer is required to review a change to a contract because they aren’t lawyers themselves.

A current and solid list of resources is one of the most valuable assets an advocate or care manager develops. It’s a crucial piece in the puzzle of success.

Read more: Channeling Mary Kay

Next week: Part III of The Dirty Dozen of What Makes a Successful Advocate


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