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

And, finally, the fourth and last in our series of skills, abilities and attributes that all successful advocates and care managers must.

We’re wrapping up with 3 additional concepts that are important to the success all private advocacy and care management practices. Yes – I know the total will be 16 (and we promised only a dirty dozen!) – see Part I about my inability to count 🙂 )

Which of these describe you and your abilities? Which of them do not? Where do you go from here?

Do your own assessment!

14. Never forget? your Allegiance. Allegiance is the foundation of a private, independent advocate’s or care manager’s work; that is – because the patient or caregiver (or someone else whose sole allegiance is to the patient) hires you, your entire focus is on what’s best for him or her.

That is the one major distinction between private, independent professionals and those who work for an organization that profits from the healthcare system. Hospital advocates, insurance advocates – their allegiance is to the companies and systems they work for. While their hearts may be in the right place, and patients may THINK they are being helped, these system-paid advocates are too often, even frustrating to them, unable to offer the best help.

When your Allegiance is at the core of your work, then you understand why independent advocates will never be reimbursed by insurance, and why we don’t want them to be. You also know the answer to one of the major objections we hear from potential clients: Why should I have to pay for advocacy? The answer might be the difference between substandard, profit-maker-provided assistance, and the independence that can save a life.

Successful advocates embrace allegiance as the heart and soul of their work.

15. Learn to delegate. All successful business people learn to delegate some of their work to others. Delegating means you hire others to do:

  1. the tasks you can’t do well yourself
  2. the tasks you don’t want to do yourself
  3. the work you can’t manage because there are still only 24 hours in the day, and there’s just not enough of you to go around.

(With a confession – this is the very toughest hurdle I face in my own business; asking others to do work I know I can do, or asking others to do work I think I can do better!)

A personal assessment – and how I decide what to delegate and to whom:

What can’t I do well? So many things! I can’t code database websites well. Invoicing, bookkeeping, or anything to do with financials – they have never been my strength. I can delegate those tasks.

You may decide marketing isn’t your thing. Or in advocacy, even more importantly, there are specific services your client may need that aren’t your strength. Finding someone else who DOES do them well is important, and when it comes to client services, it’s vital. Not only would you never want to deliver substandard service, but remember that performing services outside your own competency is an ethical no-no, and against our Code of Conduct.

What don’t I like to do? Taxes! Yup – that’s a good one to delegate, too.

Your disliked tasks might be financials, too, or marketing, or any of those non-client-interface tasks that go ignored, but at the peril of our practices. Find someone to help! Delegate!

What don’t I have enough time to do? – So many repetitive tasks, for which I have hired a membership person – so she can do them instead of me. When she handles those repetitive details, it frees me up to create and expand the meatier and more helpful APHA service offerings, and to continue writing books, planning workshops, and more.

You may find that in trying to be the sole provider of services from your practice, you can’t keep up with the demand. Find someone whose skills are complementary to yours, and bring them onboard to help your clients. This is how you grow your practice, and how you best serve your clients.

And – ta da! Our last, but certainly not least important aspect of your work and successful practice….

16. Keep up with your profession through continuous learning. Continuous learning is anything that expands your knowledge, makes you more effective or efficient, or enhances your ability to serve your clients.

Whether you take a college course, or a weekend workshop, or you call in to teleconferences or log on to webinars, or even participate in a discussion forum – you are doing yourself, your profession, and certainly your clients a great service by expanding your skills, and staying current with the conversations, the changes, the new or changed laws, the system, or any other aspect of your work.

In fact, this area is so important, that the PACB (advocate certification-building group), and the Health Advocate’s Code of Conduct and Professional Standards, both include continuous learning as one of their core tenets.

Every important profession has this expectation, and because we health / patient advocates and care managers are so focused on elevating our profession, making sure it is always considered to be above reproach, continuous learning is important to us – and you, too.

So that’s it – your Dirty Dozen (OK, there are really 16) Skills and Abilities. If you’ve done your assessment as we’ve gone along, then you know what you’ve already accomplished, what’s going well, and now, too, you know what you need to focus on going forward.

And – you know that APHA Membership can help you accomplish it all. We’re here for you. We want you to succeed, because when you do, then patients do, and we do, too.



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