Finding an Advocate Should Not Be Like Looking for a Needle in a Haystack:
Tips for Independent Patient/Health Advocates
Guest Post by Anne Llewellyn, MS, BHSA, RN-BC, CCM, CRRN, Board Member, PACB
One of the biggest challenges independent advocates face is finding clients. We can largely attribute that to the following:
- Most people don’t know what a patient/health advocate is or what services they provide.
- They don’t know when or why they might need one.
- And when they do have a need, they don’t know how to go about finding the right help.
Recently, I received an email from a Nurse Advocate asking for my help in locating an advocate.
Her email read: “Anne, do you know any patient advocates or case managers in the middle of the state of Florida? I have an estate planning lawyer who referred a client to me who would like to have name of case manager or advocate in that area.”
I wrote back to her and asked her what area specifically she was looking for. Once I learned the area and the zip code, I did what I always do, go to the PACB Website and look under the list of Board Certified Patient Advocates. I copied down a few names that fit the request and did a google search to see what information I could find on them. A few had LinkedIn Profiles, so I clicked on them and was disappointed to find no contact information. They did not have a lot of activity on their pages, so I was not sure how often they checked the site. I sent them each a message via LinkedIn asking them to email me as I had a request for advocate and I wanted to talk them about.
I then went to the five associations that have search functions as part of their databases where I often look to find advocates. That list includes:
- National Association of Health Advocacy (NAHAC)
- Greater National Advocates
- Aging Life Care Specialists
- Washington State Health Advocacy Association (WASHA)
As you can see, this was a lot of work to help someone find an advocate. You can imagine how overwhelming this experience might be for a person who is frustrated, uncertain as to what they are looking for, desperate, guilty, or exhausted? It made me think…how do people go about finding an advocate? I know the industry and I find it challenging. Some may say finding an advocate is like looking for a needle in a haystack.
How can advocates make it easier to be located by potential clients or other Advocates who may have referrals? Here are some tips:
A Professional Website
Make sure you have a website with up to date contact information and a good description of the types of patient advocacy services you provide. It’s also important to ensure your website can be located when someone searches for a patient/health advocate. If you worked with a Webmaster to design your website, ask them how you can improve your ranking in the search engines. While there are also articles online that can help you learn about raising the profile of your site, search engine optimization is a complicated strategy. You may find it more effective in terms of time money to outsource to someone with SEO expertise.
Join and Become Active in Professional Organizations
All the organizations listed above have websites open to the public with searchable directories. Associations are generally deemed a “trusted” resource to the public and are often one of the first places consumers go to search for professional services. If you choose to set up a profile in one of these directories, make sure it is complete and kept up to date. These organizations can have a lot of traffic as they work hard to promote their organizations products and services. It is your responsibility to make sure your profile is easy to find and attractive to potential clients.
Conduct an Online Search for Yourself
Conduct a google search by your company name and your professional name to see what Google finds. If you belong to a professional organization, search for yourself in that site’s directory. Use various filters to see if you can easily locate yourself. If not, do a little detective work to see how you can improve your search results. It may be as simple as completing your profile for the various search filters.
Social Media Networking
Social media networking is critical to your success. At minimum, you should have a Business Facebook Page, LinkedIn Page, and a Twitter Account. These are all free services and are important ways you can get your name out and help the public know what services you provide. Make sure your profiles describe what you do and how to find you. Update your profile often. Keep your pages current. Invite people to join and join other social media groups that are pertinent to your practice.
Develop a Marketing Plan
Dedicate time for social media as part of your marketing plan. Post often but be sure your content is both relevant and informative. Tell people how having an advocate can help them. Provide examples. Patient advocates need to educate people as to who we are and the value we bring. Remember most people only want to know “What’s in It for Me” when it comes to making purchases so write with that purpose in mind.
Write for Local Publications
Write an article for your local newspaper or magazine. Share a story about how having an advocate can be helpful when a person is suddenly or unexpectedly thrust into the healthcare system. Educating the public is something all advocates need to do.
Start a Blog
Write for Mainstream Magazines or Professional Journals
Submitting an article to a mainstream magazine or a professional journal allows you to share meaningful information that will help educate the public and members of the healthcare team as to what advocates do and the value you bring. Don’t forget to comment on articles you read in online journals and share your perspective as an advocate. Over time, you can gain a following and even become an authoritative thought leader in patient advocacy.
Your Local Community
Patient Advocacy is local, so don’t neglect the importance of being active in your community. Think about starting a patient advocate chapter in your area with other colleagues. Sharing information among your peers is important. Find other professional meetings to go to in your area that are healthcare and business related. Talk to people, share your business card and prepare materials you can leave behind. Be sure to collect business cards from others you meet and connect with them on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. Building a professional network is an ongoing process that should not be ignored.
The Patient Advocate Certification Board wants you to be successful. We hope you find these tips helpful and inspiring. Leave us a comment if you have tips or ideas to add.