It’s always in the news these days. How does one handle healthcare? So many options are out there — “Obamacare”, numerous insurance plans with Plan A through Z, and for the mature population: Medicare and various supplementary healthcare advantage plans.
Figuring it all out is challenging, even if one isn’t sick! If illness is part of the equation, everything intensifies, and if it’s serious, fear becomes a factor.
As Dr. Carolyn M. Clancy MD points out, “Listening carefully to your doctor and asking questions about a diagnosis or test results can help you get better care. But here’s the problem: just when you should be paying close attention to what your doctor is saying, you may be stunned by the news you just received. That’s when having a health or patient advocate, who can write down information, and speak up for you, so you can better understand your illness and get the care and assistance you need, can help.”
It is a lot to handle, and the mission of Affinity Healthcare Advocates(AHA) is to help their clients navigate the healthcare maze at every level, by relieving them of some of the stress and worry during what can be a very time-consuming and confusing procedure.
“It’s coordinating the process, explaining what needs to be done, explaining what the medical treatments and options are,” says John Karlen, partner in the firm with his wife Patty Karlen, chief operating officer. “By having an advocate, the patient will receive better treatment and care.”
“This is such a valuable service,” adds Danielle Daab, RN, MSN, and RN Advocate, who helps patients from their initial evaluation through their diagnosis and treatments. “This is a new adventure for me, a different aspect of nursing, and I am really looking forward to it.”
The concept began with his wife Patty Karlen RN, BSN,, reports Mr. Karlen. “She has been a nurse for 34 years, formerly at the Kaiser Hospital Research Clinic in Portland, Oregon, and then with Princeton Healthcare at the University Medical Center at Princeton. Most recently, she has been with Ingham County Well Child Clinic in Michigan.
“Patty saw the need to help patients who were challenged and confused by many of the areas involving their healthcare, and developed this idea of a support system for them. We are the advocate for the patient.”
Formerly president of Conventus, an insurance company in New Jersey, he is now partner in AHA, and oversees the business operation. “We are faced with an increasingly complex and rapidly changing healthcare system,” he explains. “There are many nuances to each disease and for each patient. With several new strategies of medical care available via medical innovation, the patient and family need to be fully aware of the remedies offered to them for the most efficient and best care.”
According to the National Advocacy Association, clients are typically people 65 and over, but one quarter are children, he adds. “Our standard customer is an individual who has been successful and is used to having professionals assist him or her. These people are accustomed to having financial advisors, lawyers when needed, bankers, etc. These professionals help them manage their life affairs.
“People are living longer, and can often have more ailments as they age. They may have a complicated or chronic, medical situation, such as diabetes or heart issues. In previous times, a doctor had an hour to spend explaining the situation to the patient. Now, typically, a physician has 12 minutes to spend with them. The doctor hardly has time to explain the options.”
This is an opportunity for the AHA team to launch into action. In this case, the “First Responder” is the nurse in charge, Danielle Daab. As the program grows, other nurses will be included.
“Danielle was our first hire,” notes Mr. Karlen. “We currently have three nurses on the staff, and we expect this to increase as we expand. The RN can spend two to three hours during the initial visit and complete a comprehensive evaluation and questionnaire about health and family history. It’s an opportunity to get to know the person and their family, and of course, to learn about their medical conditions.”
Affinity Health Advocates will cover the Princeton area, as well as Ocean and Monmouth Counties. The initial evaluation is $150, and if clients sign up for the service, they pay an hourly fee, receiving a monthly bill.
“It’s very important to get the word out, and let people know about this important service,” says Mr. Karlen. “My dad is in Oregon, and he has an advocate, Kathy. She’s an important part of his life, and I actually think he prefers to see her more than me! I expect the relationship my dad has with Kathy is what will develop with Danielle and her clients. She will be the valuable consulting person to help them with their most complicated medical conditions. This is making a difference in their lives.
“I’m looking forward to getting letters from families, saying what a help we have been and that they can’t get along without Danielle!”
And, adds Ms. Daab: “The best thing is having an impact on someone’s life and having a good outcome. I love to meet a person and hear about their life and health history and their family situation, and then put all the pieces together to help them. I want to be of service to the patients. It’s important to listen to people.”
“There is really nothing like AHA in the area,” says Mr. Karlen. “In the future, health insurance might even cover this. We think of Affinity Healthcare Advocates as a bridge to better health. We improve the quality of life for our customers and their families through our network of experts.”
AHA is located at 116 Village Boulevard in Forrestal Village, and can be reached at (609) 951-2244. Website: www.affinityadvocate.com.