Sunday, January 20, 2013

For the Newly Diagnosed

 Receiving a diagnosis of cancer is a life changing event setting you on an unexpected journey. As you begin your journey, consider the following proactive actions to help set you up for success:
  • Take several deep breaths and try not to panic. Many cancers are treatable, so try and stay positive until you know all you can about your diagnosis
  • Utilize relaxation techniques that have worked for you in the past, or try new techniques
  • Consider avoiding researching on the internet UNTIL you have spoken with the specialist (and received confirmation of the cancer diagnosis and staging information). It is important to note that each cancer, each person is unique and timing of diagnosis/stage is important
  • As you move beyond the initial shock to begin your journey of surviving your cancer, you must make a commitment to yourself that you will be in control of your fight with cancer
  • Bring an advocate with you (family, friend, or paid advocate) during the planning sessions with your physician(s) to take notes
  • Understand your insurance benefit design (what is and not covered) to help you make decisions - in addition, ask to be assigned a case manager
  • Consider seeking a second (or third) opinion so you fully understand your treatment options
  • Organize your thoughts and be prepared for your doctor's appointments and bring a list of questions with you to your physician visits
  • Do not begin a treatment regimen without fully understanding its the benefits and risks
  • Ask for copies of all of your diagnostic tests (including all x-rays, scans, pathology reports, lab tests) as you begin to organize your treatment organizer/file
  • Make sure you have a good working relationship with your medical team: Are you receiving the answers to your questions? Does your physician understand your cultural values, wishes and needs/wants? Do you feel heard?
 Consider hiring Beacon Oncology Nurse Advocates if you are experiencing any of the following:
  • Has your cancer diagnosis left you feeling fearful, worried and unsure?
  • Do you feel lost in the complexities of the healthcare maze?
  • Do you need help making sense of the many available treatments and alternative approaches?
  • Are you feeling anxious trying to process complex medical terms and large amounts of information provided by your medical provider?
  • Could you use assistance preparing for your physician visits, thinking through questions that are important to you?
  • Do you want a peace of mind knowing that you have been empowered to make informed decisions regarding your cancer care?
We at Beacon Oncology Nurse Advocates can help you navigate and take control of your journey, so that you can chart a confident course to the best cancer care for you!

Friday, January 11, 2013

The article below discusses the emerging trend of private patient advocates within the Australian health care system and the discussion among their physicians medical association...
As the use of private patient advocacy services continues to grow beyond our US (healthcare) borders, it appears that a single-payer system/open access is not the only solution towards guaranteeing high quality health care. I believe that there are pearls of wisdom to be learned from examining the causal factors driving the emerging trend of private health care advocacy - patients are individuals who want individualized care, who are beginning to demand it, and who are willing to pay for it. Once these key issues are evaluated, perhaps then systemic solutions can be developed that includes a health care model that welcomes a more empowered-educated consumer to yield higher quality of care with better health outcomes.

Doctors lament rise of private patient advocates

JULIA MEDEW December 30, 2012
Patient advocate How you can help yourself ... ask a family member or friend to attend appointments and support you during a hospital stay.
PRIVATE patient advocates are charging hundreds of dollars to sit in on medical appointments to ensure patients understand what they are hearing and ask the right questions.
They are also helping people gather second and third opinions on diagnoses and treatments, and mediate disputes when patients have concerns about their care.
Doctors, however, are concerned about the trend and the president of the Australian Medical Association, Steve Hambleton, said the answer to better care was more resources, not private advocates.
Private patient advocacy is already big business in the US and Britain, and is starting to emerge in Australia. A new Victorian company called Patient Advocate is offering what is believed to be the first fee-for-service model in which people can employ an advocate to step in and resolve an immediate concern in the health system at any time of day. It is soon to expand to NSW and Queensland.
The business, created by lawyer Claire Crocker last year, has assisted nearly 100 patients and has provided some with a ''by your side'' service, in which an advocate shadows the patient at particular times to ensure they have an ''extra set of eyes and ears'' monitoring care.
While fees vary according to complexity, distances travelled and the time of day, the service costs about $100 an hour.
Most hospitals already offer patient liaison officers to help people with concerns during business hours, but they are employed by the hospitals, so represent their employer's interests as well as those of the the patients.
Ms Crocker realised there was a gap in the market when she helped a relative through complex care.
''People are not people any more, they are a patient to be moved through,'' she said. ''You might have a relationship with a clinic these days, but not one doctor, so the burden is really on the patient to ensure there is continuity in their care.''
Ms Crocker said she had helped a range of people requiring everything from one phone call to sort out a problem right through to those needing meetings with several parties. In one case, she helped a family move a patient to a hospital closer to his home so his wife could visit more regularly. She also helped a patient whose illness persisted after 14 operations to find alternative care.
The patient advocates have a range of legal, healthcare and advocacy backgrounds, and do not provide medical or legal advice or make decisions for people. While initial phone calls are often met with wariness and suspicion, Ms Crocker said most health professionals found an advocate's presence helpful in the end.
Jan Ireland, a midwife with more than 30 years' experience, said an increasing number of women used this service because they wanted to avoid particular interventions in hospital or had had a traumatic birth in the past and wanted help to change their next experience.
Dr Hambleton said he was concerned about the trend because doctors and other healthcare workers should be trying to accommodate patients' needs and listen to their concerns as a matter of course.
He said while the health system was under pressure with significant shortages of GPs and other services in particular areas, the answer was to add more resources to the system, not private advocates.
''Good medical practice is founded on quality communication between doctors and patients so I accept that this service exists, but I would hope it is unnecessary,'' he said.