The Dangers of Choosing A Patient Advocate By Lowest Bid

The Dangers of Choosing A Patient Advocate By Lowest Bid

When it is time for choosing a Patient Advocate, how do you decide between the elder care service providers? As an elder care Patient Advocate myself, I was just invited to be the lowest bidder in a deal to gain clients for three to five years. The problem is that I am simply not a lowest-bidder kind of professional. Moreover, I don’t think you want a lowest bidder for your Patient Advocate.

A major automobile manufacturer contacted the Advocates via our professional organization to offer their RFP (Request For Proposal). They were seeking an elder care provider for services for their employees and were dangling a 3-5 year contract.

My antennae went up. Do I want this for my company? Is this the best way for a major manufacturer to secure partnership and an optimal deal for their employees? Would you want anyone bidding at all when it comes to choosing a Patient Advocate for yourself or a loved one?

Think about how that might play out.

Would you want the doctor who bid the lowest to handle your care? How about the company who puts the tires and brakes on your car? I am reminded of the quote Choosing a Patient Advocate, Raleigh, N.C.attributed to astronaut John Glenn about sitting atop the rocket when it was ready to launch: “I felt about as good as anybody would, sitting in a capsule on top of a rocket that were both built by the lowest bidder.”

Choosing A Patient Advocate: A Guide for Elder Care Services

Along with RFP situations, here are some considerations when choosing a Patient Advocate and elder care professional:

Watch out for the “Sure we can!” folks. Always interview potential elder care providers to your satisfaction. Ask them if they’ve ever assisted with a similar healthcare situation. See if there is synergy between you. Heck, one of our professional organizations offers on its website the very questions to ask of those you interview. I am so very on board with that. Even if you don’t hire me, I want to enable you to find what you feel is the best fit.

Beyond that I’d suggest these standard considerations when choosing a Patient Advocate and Elder Care professional:

  • References: It may be difficult for those of us in health care to offer a ready list of references. HIPAA, personal privacy, and the nature and sensitivity of the matters we deal with may preclude that. However I myself do have many testimonials for you to review (and for each one published I’ve gained permission to use their kind words, keeping such documentation on file. I don’t simply lift it). We can likely connect you with a former client or family member when there is time.
  • Education and Work History: Each matters, each brings an offering to you.
  • Professional Organizations: And standing within or level of participation.
  • Codes of Ethics or Professional Standards:  Does your elder care candidate subscribe? Can you find evidence of that or is it in mention-only? Can you tell?
  • Professional Liability Insurance: When I first began my Advocacy practice, I felt it was important to carry insurance. In fact, it was the second thing I did after forming the LLC. I would not see a client until I had secured it, not so much due to risk as to show clients and peer professionals that I was insur-able, that I had passed an insurance company’s muster and would remain within the boundaries of my professional work in elder care and advocacy. Soon after I was interfacing with a case manager who admitted to me that they used to carry it but it became expensive  so they just “let it go.” Same person asked me for the name of my insurance provider so as to look into getting it again. Same person asked again two years later, never having followed up. For you, the client (and for my momma!) I’d have to question the credibility and intent of this person, their business and integrity. But that’s just me.

Let us return now to the lowest bidder issue. Years ago while in the staffing industry I participated in such bids. Staffing in an urban area could be a dog-eat-dog business. An RFP would appear, and we’d fall all over ourselves preparing a company overview and chronicling experience and credentials. We thought that with volume we could make up for the monies lost in lower pricing. When we submitted, it was hand-delivered with fanfare, not to miss out on a chance for face time and extend that VIP treatment to our target! The all-important pricing page was all that RFP-recipient wanted to see. They’d turn right to it while you stood there (reminding you of the futility of all your work).

I am thinking of two remarkable slogans that may apply here. Please indulge my re-marking:

     “Price, Quality, Service. Pick two.”

Along those same lines: 

     “”Good seafood is not cheap. Cheap seafood is not good.

You get the picture, right?

And still I would open and read that RFP. It began: Dear Supplier, 

Nope. Not going to start out in a relationship with a partner as a sterile vendor. After all we are not talking about ensuring enough printer ink or toilet paper here.  Choosing a Patient Advocate for professional elder care services is a major, personal decision. This individual will play an integral part in a person’s care, human care. We are not only ON the team, we are often the ones building it for the client and family. 

The RFP had been provided on June 19, and the due date listed was June 21. Not good. This set the tone of the relationship with a flavor that indicated they needed answers yesterday. (Had their previous plans for elder care advocacy and case management tanked? Had someone previously obtained the bid or been a “preferred provider” and failed? Would the winner of this RFP be walking into a complete mess?)

This is not the way I wish to serve. I will say that I am nearly always happy to walk into a confounding situation with a client; after all, righting the ship is what we do. Intercepting folks during change often means we begin during acute situations. But I want to focus and be loyal to that client and not the corporate-hand that writes my paycheck. I’ve written about the Allegiance Factor before which suggests that when we follow the money often we will determine the allegiance.

I will not have my voice squelched nor limit the advocacy for my client from fear of retaliation by the insurance company or hospital – or RFP situation – that would pay me. I venture to say customized planning may suffer. Thoughts of creating a system so as to “process” the clients does not appeal to me. Get ’em through, satisfy the contractual obligations. Next, please.

Personally I do not ever wish to respond to any RFP. That’s just me, but in previous lives I found RFP participation to cheapen the relationship. It begins in a vice clamp, with one-upmanship from inception. My thoughts on business are ones of equal partnership and our coming from a place of value as opposed to a vendor being driven by (or held to?) a scope of work, price and compliance.

We do work with employers who wish to assist their employees by offering elder care case management services, research and referral, assessments, care coordination and guidance. Our clients mean the world to us, and we want to align ourselves with business partners (including employers) who feel the same way.

 If in the past I’d thought that “best price meant lowest price” (like hotel rooms or hamburgers), I’d soon learn that we do indeed get what we pay for. When it comes to choosing a Patient Advocate and elder care professional, if it were my loved one I’d want the best. Best in elder care terms means best fit, experience and dedication. It means remedy.

Your thoughts?

NAVIGATE NC works in direct service to clients and their families. Not for hospitals. Not for insurance. (And not for RFPs). We work for YOU. Call us at 919.628.4428 or CONNECT WITH US  on our website today to schedule a no-cost, no-obligation consultation.  

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