Do You Pass the Trust Muster? Says Who? Announcing Background Checks for Health Advocates

We were all there at one time; that point in early adulthood when we realized we needed someone to guide us as we saved money for our futures and retirement. We didn’t understand much (if anything at all) about investing, or 401Ks or IRAs or REITs or annuities. We were confused. We thought we would miss something important.

We needed an expert – an investment advisor! Someone who truly understood all this investing and saving stuff, terminology, possibilities, to help make it happen…. Someone who could hold our hands over time as needed….

Someone we could trust with our money. Someone we would trust to hold our futures in their hands.

A VERY tall order!

So how did we find that right person? We asked friends and others we trusted if they could recommend someone. We might have interviewed a few advisors. These days, many people go to the Internet to try to figure it out. But most of us didn’t have that tool when we started saving, so we relied on recommendations, and sometimes on credentials they had earned, or bonds they held.

For most of us it probably worked out just fine. If the first one or two didn’t work out as we liked, we had the liberty of making a change. Many variables including our working track records, our ability to set money aside, and the knowledge and abilities of that person we eventually trusted to recommend investments have affected our savings as time has gone on. For most of us, it remains to be seen whether we made the right choices for the long haul.

But clearly – our entire financial futures have been predicated on our abilities to find the right person to TRUST with our money.

Here we shift gears to something equally as important: our health and physical well-being futures.

In the “old days” (15 and more years ago) we could pretty much rely on our doctors and their support systems to look out for our health and well-being, to treat and cure us when we got sick or hurt, and to elicit payments from our insurers or employers for doing so. Since they had MD, or FAACP, or other alphabet soup after their names, we simply trusted them to take care of us.

And of course, for the readership of this blog, I’m simply preaching to the choir about that approach today….

We, as health and patient advocates and care managers, are now stepping up to the plate in droves to fill the gap left by the beyond-the-pale emphasis on “follow the money” in today’s healthcare system. Even our doctors and their teams can’t fight it any longer, and that means they cannot be the professionals we previously TRUSTED to provide our care without a whole lot of other gymnastical confirmations and creative solutions being developed, too.

There’s that word TRUST again.

And the question: exactly who can we TRUST to provide those confirmations and solutions?

Preaching to our advocate choir again – we raise our hands and say, “Trust US! We’re the ones! We will be your health and well-being advisors! Ask an advocate! Ask me!”

But… and I ask this with all due respect…

Why SHOULD they trust us?

And what exactly does that mean?

For investment advisors, success is more easily measurable because it’s easy to see whether their long-time clients’ savings and investments have grown. Further, there are 30+ years of “certified” advisors on which to judge a track record.

Some advocates have established track records – 10 to 30+ years of successfully shepherding people through the system says plenty.

But – what if you are new to the profession? What if you have helped only family and friends, and maybe a small handful of clients? When you roll on out there into the marketplace, who’s to say someone can TRUST you with their healthcare and in our follow-the-money systems, their financial security too? How do they know you’re going to protect them from doctors and surgeons who work too fast to practice safely, or are too eager to bill them for appointments, tests, procedures, and treatment they don’t really need, and then, bills that are unfair?

Even if you have spent a lifetime working as a doctor, or nurse, or in another clinical role, or as a social worker, or a teacher, or case worker…

How do they know you aren’t a fraud? They don’t.

So how can you prove to them you are trustworthy? Well – very honestly – you can’t. Further, once advocacy certification is available, it will not require any proof, nor provide any promise to patients, that you are trustworthy.

But you can prove that you’ve been trustworthy to this point. And as Dr. Phil says, “The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.”

So, then, it becomes incumbent upon us to quantify our past behavior. Enter criminal and other background checks.

As of today, APHA is recommending to all working advocates that they undergo an official background check to verify that they are worthy of a potential client’s trust.

Recently, the Patient Advocate Certification Board made the same recommendation when it published the eligibility requirements for its upcoming certification. APHA not only supports their efforts, but we are now providing the information our members will need to take this step – to showcase their trustworthy track records.

Begin taking this important step today.

*Thanks to Jean Mignolet, Mignolet Business Research Consultants, for her insight and contributions to building this background check protocol.


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