My social media of choice is Twitter. I’ve been a “Tweep” since 2008, although that includes years of no Twitter during the craziness of politics and elections when I find my blood pressure boiling way too frequently.
There are lots of advocates who are also Twitter people. Those I know about I follow. When it makes sense I “retweet” what they’ve said to help them amplify their voices – a bit of a marketing boost, I hope!
So you can imagine my surprise when I found this Twitter post the other day:
Whoa! Say what?
I contacted the advocate who had posted it, told her she would probably think I was picking on her (I was!) and explained why she had not represented advocacy properly. Her immediate reply to me was a loud mea culpa! “Thank you for catching it and “picking” on me!” she replied, taking full responsibility for the error of her ways. (In case you are curious – NO – this advocate is not a nurse. In fact, she is a private, independent, medical billing advocate.)
Do you recognize the problem?
The problem is this: the image suggests that our work as independent advocates is medical. It’s a photo of a medical professional, as if she is a health advocate. However! (a BIG HOWEVER!) a private, professional advocate’s work, by ethics and standards, IS NOT MEDICAL. A picture says a thousand words, and if the problem was not obvious to you immediately – then imagine how confusing it might also be to someone who doesn’t know the definition and distinctions of a health advocate, and encounters it!
(And then imagine what happens if that person wants to hire someone medical, only to be “disappointed” that independent advocates aren’t? Or actually hires an advocate, and then gets mad when he finds out she isn’t going to provide nursing? or ? Don’t forget – perception is reality!)
Recently, a group of advocacy leaders began meeting to discuss a number of items and issues of interest to the entire profession. Included in the list of issues is “What do we call ourselves?” And of course, a supporting conversation that must take place is – “How do we distinguish our work from other health-care related professions?” One answer to that question is – we are NOT MEDICAL. This point is further supported by the Ethics and Standards as promoted by the Patient Advocate Certification Board.
Years ago, I published a post entitled, Mixed Messages Are Just a Lawsuit Waiting to Happen. While I caught a lot of flak for it at the time, the message remains true and important – and has not changed.
The Importance of Consistent Messaging
If we are to continue growing our profession, if we are to continue enhancing our current reputation of being HIGHLY ETHICAL, we must feature and focus on CONSISTENT MESSAGING. Unfortunately, we can’t say one thing, but represent ourselves doing something else – and that includes the consistency of not representing independent health and patient advocacy work as being medical.
Smart advocates know that mixed messages can not only interfere with their client, and potential-client relationships, but can also set the stage for a potential lawsuit, or loss of certification. Make that smart move today of reviewing your website and other marketing materials, and the language you use, to be sure that your work and your intent, are exactly what they should be as a health or patient advocate.
PS – follow me on Twitter! @trishatorrey When you do, please say “Hi! I’m an independent advocate!” and I’ll follow you back 🙂 I’m not there every day, but I do enjoy keeping up with advocacy on Twitter.
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