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Can an Advocate Do More Harm Than Good?
Yes, sadly (although rarely) a patient advocate does more harm than good. I was reminded of this recently when I heard from one of our Alliance members who was picking up the ball from another advocate (not an APHA member) who had totally messed up the work a client-patient needed to have done – an advocate who had actually made the client’s situation worse. The problem-creating advocate had been working with her client through a hospitalization. As far as we know, that work went well. Her core business is medical-navigational advocates. However, later, when the client’s hospital bill arrived, the client asked the advocate to help him appeal several items the insurer had denied, then to attempt to reduce the hospital bill. I don’t know all the details. What I do know is that the advocate in question had never filed an insurance appeal before, and had never negotiated a hospital bill before, but she attempted to do both for this client, and she failed at both. The client, frustrated and upset, reached out to the APHA member-advocate to ask for help. What the member told me was that it was too late. Only one appeal was allowed, and the hospital billing department had dug in its heals because the first advocate had become verbally abusive. Yikes. The salient point for this post, is that the first advocate attempted to perform services she was not equipped, educated or skilled enough to perform. In fact, this is SO wrong, that it is a violation of the Health Advocate’s Code of Conduct and Professional Standards (which, no, that first advocate has never subscribed to) – see #8: Health advocates will, at all times, work within their professional boundaries and will reject any requests or demands that would cause them to violate those boundaries. A professional patient advocate would never have taken on such an assignment him or herself. In fact, that’s the difference between a professional and a pretender. Other Ways Advocates Can Harm Their Patient-Clients The question of whether an advocate can do more harm than good has actually been raised…