Healthcare Liaison has a training and Credentialing Program specifically for medical professionals who want to be certified as healthcare advocates. A class of seven just passed their certification exams, and they are now running their own businesses as Certified Healthcare Advocates. You can see them–and see if one of them is in your area–by going to www.healthcareliaison.com/advocates.html .
Each time a group graduates, I am struck by how many people want to go specifically into the field of eldercare advocacy. While it is true that the population is “graying” as baby boomers enter their retirement years, I constantly wonder about how young families with children with life-threatening illnesses manage to navigate our complex system. I puzzle about there are many advocates who want to work with the elderly, but few who want to work with children and families: after all, it’s not just seniors who are confused and overwhelmed by healthcare; it’s everyone. It is one of the aspects that I most love about how I work: I have clients of all ages and it keeps me focused on the entire range of healthcare, not just one age group. I love working with seniors, and I love working with other age groups as well.
I have thought about this a lot because one of the populations I like working with is families with children who have complex medical conditions. Somehow, I think, there is a belief, even in medical systems, that young children and families don’t need help navigating through a medical crisis because the medical system takes care of them through the concept of “Medical Home” and there’s no need for more help. I know, however, from watching parents with a sick child in the intensive care unit, or a family struggling with a child’s diagnosis of leukemia, that there is a need. What kinds of services can I offer those families?
- Help in formulating their questions to ask the medical team
- Explanations of what is happening
- Assistance with complex decision-making about treatment options
- Support for second or third opinions
- Guidance with decision-making
- Help with managing family and friends
- Following the family through the entire range of care
- Insurance company assistance
My concern with healthcare advocates and the emerging profession is that advocates will specialize too quickly without first having a solid background in working with all age groups. I think an advocate is a better advocate when they choose breadth first and then narrow to a specialty.
I am frequently asked how much it “should” cost to work with a healthcare advocate. The honest answer is that it varies tremendously, depending on your part of the country. The range I have seen, in talking with advocates nationwide, is enormous, but most people fall in the $50-$200 range. What determines the cost?
* Geographic area. Where you live and the cost of living there will drive the cost of all of your advocates expenses. And your cost.
* How your advocate works. Healthcare Advocates who travel to see you in your home or the hospital (as opposed to having you see them in their office) will cost more. The advantage is that you don’t need to travel to them; they travel to you, but there are many costs (time, mileage) associated with that system.
* The amount of time your Advocate has been working. People frequently start out at lower rates and as they establish themselves, their rates go up. An exception could be businesses that are incorporated as a non-profit or Advocates that have a sliding scale for fees.
* The amount of training your Advocate has. As with many services, people trained or certified in that area will cost more.
What can you do to control your costs?
* Make sure you have a written agreement with your Advocate for the services you want. Your goals should be clearly spelled out by the end of the first meeting so you both know what you’re trying to accomplish.
* Divide up the tasks. Frequently, once we have the goals identified, my clients say “I can do these pieces and I want you to do these other ones. It’s a cost saver for them and helps them be more empowered in their on-going medical care.
* Keep communications clear. Your Advocate should be giving you–via phone or email–updates on what they are doing for you. If you’re in the hospital, they may be communicating with your family and friends. I frequently set up email groups with my clients so that everyone they want “in the loop” receives the same information from me at the same time.
* Trust your intuition. If it seems like it’s difficult to work with your Advocate–for whatever reason–talk with them to try to resolve it. If it still feels like it’s not a “good fit” with that particular Advocate, find another one. The idea is to assist you in your goals, and you need to be working with someone that can help you do just that!