What is an independent patient advocate?
Independent patient advocacy is a relatively new industry that’s rapidly growing as a result of increasing complexity, sluggishness and expense of the American healthcare system. Independent patient advocates work directly for patients on a private pay basis. We still, of course, completely rely on physicians' knowledge and experience to provide medical diagnosis, treatment and follow up care.
How can Serenity Cancer Patient Advocates help my congregation ?
There are a myriad of ways in which SCPA assists cancer patients.
Broadly speaking, we help in five ways. We decrease financial risk. We expedite appointments. We decrease confusion. We increase safety. We help providers give patients more efficient care.
How do you describe your faith?
In many respects, it’s a pan-theistic belief in an omniscient, omnipotent higher power. It's the result of a varied array of religious and spiritual experiences.
I grew up in a non-denominational, Christian household. I went to a Catholic high school (Mater Dei in Santa Ana, CA) and was elected student body president, despite not being Catholic. (No place in my life has replicated the kindness I experienced at Mater Dei). I am engaged to a Catholic girl. My sister married a Jewish man, so my nieces and nephews are being raised half Jewish and nearly half of my close friends in Los Angeles are Jewish. Moreover, I have spent time in Tibet, India, Bali and Jordan and have felt the wonder of Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam.
In total, I have been to 54 countries in my life and the resounding spiritual theme has been this: whoever created us was supremely gifted. The love, compassion and empathy that humans are capable of—regardless of their religion and despite our suffering—astounds me and I’m deeply grateful for our Creator.
How does your faith influence your work as a patient advocate?
As I have stood by watching three grandparents and my father pass from this disease, I slowly learned that God’s will isn’t my will. (We all have this knowledge on an intellectual level, but when we experience the death of a close family member, we feel that knowledge on a deep visceral level).
I cannot control the cancer’s existence. I can control how I help my clients, family, and friends deal with the illness, however. But that response can be emotionally taxing, so I'm appreciative that my faith gives me the strength to follow through on that response.
My faith also allows me to believe that cancer isn’t entirely negative. While it can be a devastatingly tragic disease (especially when it affects children and young adults), beauty can arise from the experience even when treatments aren’t successful. Cancer can bring frayed families back together. Cancer can give us a deeper appreciation of life. Cancer can give us time to say goodbye, which is an extraordinary blessing. It took me a very long time to acknowledge these positives after my father’s death. But they now feel like undeniable, objective truths.
What are the qualifications of Serenity’s advocates?
Our founder is Jim Best. He was pre-med at Vanderbilt University. He became a science teacher in Spanish Harlem and has now been in healthcare for over fifteen years. That time has been spent in biotech market research and various posts in the medical device industry (product development, product training, sales and sales management).
He received an MBA (with a healthcare emphasis) from UCLA Anderson. He is a board certified patient advocate (BCPA) and a certified oncology patient navigator (OPN). These certifications required studying these 41 topics and 20 topics, respectively.
Perhaps most importantly, Jim estimates that he has been in more than 1,100 surgeries and has had 5,000 or more (often highly technical) conversations with surgeons. He is close friends with dozens of physicians and thus truly understands the healthcare system as an insider would.
How do we know your presence is legal? Do advocates comply with HIPAA?
Every one of our clients has to sign a facility’s consent form that allows doctors and nurses to communicate with us. We always carry that document and it lives in the electronic medical record whenever possible.
Currently, we are not a "covered entity" under HIPAA. (That’s likely because the 1996 law long predates our widespread existence). Serenity believes that we’ll inexorably be a covered entity at some point and moreover, protecting privacy is simply the right thing to do. So we have fastidiously implemented various privacy protection mechanisms that are outlined in this 26 page document.
Do you give medical advice?
No. We cannot and do not provide medical advice. Even if patient advocates have been nurses or doctors in the past, they cannot legally act as one while practicing patient advocacy.
Do you give legal advice?
No. While we do have relationships with eldercare lawyers, we are not lawyers ourselves and do not provide legal advice.
Do you give financial advice?
No. We will inevitably discuss your finances, but our goal therein is to understand what your capacity is to pay for different types of treatments at different types of facilities in order to ensure you’re making the best decisions for yourself.