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 your knowledge and experience to provide medical diagnosis, treatment and follow up care.
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 seventeen years. In addition to patient advocacy, 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 about a dozen physicians and thus truly understands your resource constraints.
Can we refer patients to you?
You certainly can, but there is a major caveat. Serenity's only allegiance is to the patient and we strongly recommend that they receive second opinions. If our mutual client chooses to receive another opinion, there is a possibility that you will lose the patient.
How do we know your presence is legal? Do advocates comply with HIPAA?
Every one of our clients has to sign your facility’s consent form that allows you to communicate with the patient advocate. That document will live in the EMR if possible and will always be carried by the advocate.
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.
From my perspective, what are the pros and cons of your presence?
We’ll start with the bad news. Some physicians who have worked alongside patient advocates report that patients ask more questions when they employ an advocate.
On the other hand, physicians generally report that, with the guidance of a good patient advocate:
patients don’t waste time re-asking the same questions via email or in the next appointment,
patients understand which questions can be directed to PA’s and NP’s,
patients understand and adhere to treatment protocols more than typical patients,
patients are on time and understand that physicians can’t always be,
patients are prepared with good questions that reflect an understanding of what’s actually happening,
patient history in the EMR is correct,
pharmaceutical reconciliation in the EMR occurs consistently,
patients are more confident in the chosen treatment protocol because they have seen another physician,
patients’ morale is heightened because they have someone to manage every nuance of their care,
insurance barriers are easier to manage for office staff, and
existing care coordination efforts are re-doubled by the advocate.