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Be the most effective Advocate (and how to recognize one)

2 hands reaching for each other
2 hands reaching for each other

By Martine G. Brousse (not AI!)

"The Medical Bill Whisperer"

Patient Advocate, Certified Mediator



March 11, 2024


Welcome to our growing circle of advocates!

 You have learned from Umbra/AdvoConnection and other mentors how to set your business and get started.


So let me ask you. Why did you choose this rewarding but challenging profession? What do you have to offer? What are your expectations? Your answer will lighten your steps and set you on the best course to reach your goals.


If I were asked to share my better advice, this is what I would bring it down to.

And for you, a patient or supporter of one, this is what I would encourage you to look for when choosing an advocate.


1. Know your niche


Too often, new or prospective advocates ask me: “How quickly can I learn medical billing?”


While I always welcome the opportunity to inform and mentor, this tells me that the person has little knowledge or limited experience of the vastly complex world of medical billing and insurance. I end up asking them why choose this advocacy specialty, which requires a substantial commitment in time and efforts before achieving some basic level of competence?


Instead why not offer your clients the invaluable expertise you have already gained, the skills honed in your professional or personal life, the passion in your belly or the solid foundation you already have to build on?


I recall the retiring accountant who decided he’d excel at account management and keeping track of bills. Instead of learning the ropes of Billing, the Pilates instructor realized she’d do greater good by teaching women who had mastectomies the special exercises she had adapted for herself after her own cancer surgery.  Both had a solid client base to build on, the skills and the right focus.


If you are determined to learn a new set of skills, do invest time and efforts. A mentor can help refine your knowledge, building on your existing talents while developing new strengths.


2. Commit wisely


What are your goals, time expectations, level of commitment? However tempted to accept every job, can you deliver the expected quality of work? Every time? Would hours of research be required to learn how to do the project? How many hours can you effectively dedicate to clients every week? What if you need to sub-contract?


Revaluate as you go, especially cases you find unsatisfying or too challenging. Maximizing your time, resources, efforts should be an ongoing task. Remember: running a business takes time too! Analyze metrics to determine whether to adjust your rates, find more effective advertising or farm out some tasks.


3. Grow


Using appropriate software, databases, timekeepers, invoicing apps and document management platforms will help your business bloom. Yes, it might take some time to master them but so well worth it! Explore websites, trade journals, blogs, podcasts dedicated to your niche. Keep up with news on every level that may affect your area of work. Community colleges or community classes at local universities offer many low-cost courses which could help you be more effective or IT savvy. Connect with other advocates for support, advice, educational or referral opportunities.


Networking is great for advertising too. Some clients come my way through random meetings. Use every opportunity to hand your contact info or talk about what you do. The more enthusiastic you are, the more memorable!


4.     Advocate for yourself


Advocacy can be draining, clients anxious and needing reassurance. Being friendly and emotionally supportive is as essential as sticking to the work order. But I have learned the hard way that boundaries are a must, to be established early.


I don’t take calls on the weekend, nor reply to emails unless an emergency. But my response is immediate Monday through Friday. Of course, should your niche be clinical in nature, your weekends (and even nights) might be affected. Beware of promising exact timelines or guaranteeing specific outcomes: meeting or exceeding realistic expectations yield better rewards to your business... and sanity.


Include fun and rest on your schedule. A 15-min walk or tea break can do wonders when stress gets to me. Vent to your peers or support system when times are tougher. As you tell your clients: “you are not alone!”


In conclusion:  

I have been at this for more than a decade now. A hard decision was to ignore the urge to take on every case, based on financial anxiety. I now trust my intuition, turning down questionable clients or projects with little hope of success. “Better” clients send better referrals too! I do give free advice to patients with DIY issues, in exchange for future recommendations.


Your peace of mind should extend to your work. What you do should bring you satisfaction and further fuel your passion.

Otherwise, how can a burned-out, discontent or drained advocate be motivated and effective enough to give patients their personal and professional best?



Martine Brousse was a long-time Billing Manager for Physicians before switching to the side of patients in 2013. The move has allowed her to apply her deep expertise and vast experience of the intricacies of resolving all types of medical bill and claim payment issues in ways that directly and positively impact her clientsʻ finances.


@martine brousse 2024  the medical bill whisperer 2024



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