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And Above All – Establish Trust
For many years I’ve heard from patients across the country with questions about their healthcare. Not medical questions; rather questions about something in the healthcare system that isn’t working the way they want, or expect it, to work. They can’t get their doctors to answer their questions, or the insurance company has turned them down for a test or treatment, or they got a bill they didn’t expect – or – ______ (fill in the blank with hundreds more questions!) There is one theme that runs through every question; that is – a lack of trust. In every case, the reason they are turning to me is because they don’t trust either an answer they’ve been given, or they don’t trust the person or entity who gave them that answer, or both. A trust gap has developed, a chasm really, that’s growing wider, between patients and the traditional system of obtaining healthcare. The more they need, whether it’s more medical care or more answers about that care, the less they are getting. That widening chasm represents rationing – of care and communication. The more care and communication are rationed, the more frustrated patients become and their trust erodes even further. When vulnerable people can’t trust, then they become desperate. That’s often the point when they go in search of someone to help, and more and more frequently, that person they are hoping will help them is one of us – a patient advocate. Knowing that, this next statement will make perfect sense to you: As a patient advocate, perhaps the most important thing you can give your client is a sense of trust – trust in you and what you can do for him or her. No, you can’t make clients trust their doctors or their insurance companies, but you can help them trust you. That needs to be the first step in engagement between the patient and the advocate. This concept became clearer to me recently when I was contacted directly by one of the patients I mentioned at the beginning of this post. We’ll call her Matilda. Matilda…