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Independent Advocacy’s Three-Legged Stool of Success
In response to one of the most frequently asked questions I get as the director of The Alliance of Professional Health Advocates – I might be providing an answer you don’t expect. That’s OK! Because if you don’t expect it, then you may hear it even more clearly than you otherwise would. And that can only be good. I hear the basic questions in a number of formats: Do I need to get a degree or certificate to be a patient advocate? Followed by, “what degree” or “what courses do I need to take?” Do I need to be certified to be a patient advocate? or Do I need a license to be a patient advocate? I already have a degree in ______ (healthcare management, or nursing, or other system-related credentials) – so do I need to study anything else? The answer that may surprise you is this: You aren’t asking the right questions. You don’t NEED any of that. There are no specific degrees or credentials you must have to be a good, effective, independent patient advocate. It’s not about degrees, or certificates, or licenses, or formal education. For today, all you need are these three things: A solid and basic understanding of how the healthcare system really works and the ways to get around it. NO, not the way it formally educates you that it works. Instead, the follow-the-money nature of the system and everything that entails. A solid and internalized-embrace of independent advocacy ethics. A willingness to learn and execute the business basics of starting, growing, and managing a practice: from legal to insurance to marketing and other aspects, too. Like the three-legged stool, if you are missing any of those supports, you will fall over, and fail. Tough words, but true. And ignored by too many. The problem is this: so many newbie advocates think that because they have been nurses (or physicians) for decades, they are prepared to be advocates – they are not. Or because they have been managing hospital systems, or physician practice billing departments, they know how to run a billing practice…