UCLA Scheduled to Teach What Soul Sherpa Already Knows

The University of California’s Los Angeles campus (UCLA) is venturing into new curriculum covering patient advocacy.  Beginning in the fall of 2013, the University’s Extension Program will debut a three-year program of study where students can earn a Patient Advocacy Certificate.  UCLA is calling their program “the first of its kind.”  Citing a trend for “in-demand healthcare careers,”  UCLA has discovered what SOUL SHERPA has known and worked at since 1990.  Given the complications in understanding and managing quality healthcare, a patient now needs a professional advocate (in addition to a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, who generally makes major decisions at crisis points on another’s behalf) just as someone with a legal issue needs an attorney before venturing into a court room.

Universal healthcare coverage does not affect the need for each of us to be represented by a qualified healthcare advocate.  The simple math tells it all:  More people are getting older and living longer.  The numbers of doctors, hospitals, and related medical staff are not keeping pace.  Healthcare will be provided in shorter periods of time.  Insurance will cover less care.  Each of us is responsible for identifying a proactive and knowledgeable healthcare advocate prior to the need for formal medical care.

UCLA’s patient advocacy program intends to teach its students the skills Lisa has learned on-the-job since 1990, combined with her hospice and hospital service.  Lisa describes her job as equal parts physician assistant, attorney, financial adviser, insurance agent, and grief and loss therapist.  It is only with this unique combination of skills that I survived a stroke at 99, mismanaged hospital care and prescription administration, avoided being released too early, fought unreasonable medical charges, and received the empathy and support I needed to recover a great deal of what my stroke stole from me.

I couldn’t have done it myself, just as UCLA and a host of other universities are just discovering.  A patient without an exceptional healthcare advocate is like taking a hike in the middle of a freeway.  Only disaster awaits.  Find your advocate, your SOUL SHERPA, now.  You will never regret it.

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