Candy Hammeras ~ The Patient Advocate in the Health Care Industry.
The Role of a Patient Advocate
If you have ever had a bad experience from an extended stay in a hospital, such as a mis-diagnosis of your condition, or a malpractice procedure, followed by a hefty hospital bill due to "inadequate" health insurance, or no health insurance, like the 44 million fellow Americans who do not have it, you know that those issues can compound the stress and mental anguish from the illness.
An illness is a stressful time for patients as well as for their families. The best-laid plans can go awry, judgment is impaired, and put simply, you are not at your best when you are sick. Patients need someone who can look out for their best interests and help navigate the confusing healthcare system – in other words, a patient navigator.
Candy Hammeras of The Hammeras Group LLC in Southern, California, provides high-level expedient, private, and caring navigation through personal healthcare challenges.
Unlike Patient Advocates who are have more of the legal and clinical backgrounds to assist patients with healthcare advise, Patient Navigators operate best in their local environments, and are healthcare experts with the ability to confront health system and environmental barriers that tend to burden individuals who find themselves in a healthcare crises, and need direction.
These complexities include fear, direction on who to see and where to go for the best care, financial and insurance issues, handling of paperwork, documentation, follow-through, and physician communication.
Patient navigators, therefore, may play a critical role in coordinating access to a comprehensive continuum of services by tailoring their assistance to help patients identify a medical home, by facilitating communication and cooperation between providers, and by providing the patient education and support necessary to increase access to care and their ability to comply with prescribed therapies.
"Likewise, certain skills in a hospital setting, if taught and understood, will promote a caring culture, increase patient/physician satisfaction, and better ensure that patients have a positive experience" says Hammeras.
The problems of hospital-acquired conditions has long plagued the health-care sector, leading to unnecessary injury, death and billions of dollars in costs.
Patient safety is a serious issue and the key to reducing harm is taking on responsibility to change. The use of better technologies and safety systems have helped patients immensely, but much of the burden for safe care lies with the clinical providers who interact with these patients while they are hospitalized.
In a 2010 medical report, investigators from the Inspector General's office found that the rate of injuries related to the care of patients "were considered preventable."
Another tool cited that targets hospital-acquired conditions is the U.S. Department's Health and Human Services (HHS) ~ Partnership for Patients Initiative.
The initiative promotes sharing of information between hospitals on the best practices to prevent adverse conditions and promotes efforts to improve the transition of people from in-patient hospitals to other care providers.
The results of what patient navigators like the services Candy Hammeras provides, and group initiatives like the Partnership for Patients Initiative from HHS, has caused the healthcare industry to pay heed to one of the original themes of the Institute Of Medicine's (IOM) mission, “To Err is Human” — and therefore rethinking and redesigning systems.
And while these efforts have seen a shift in the number of patient safety issues decrease over the last few years, there is still much work to be done.
The Hammeras Group is developing a pro-active website for patients that will include a savvy and transparent way to find true data on any doctor and hospital.
"The goal", Hammeras says, "Is first, Healthcare help, and second, to get all doctors and hospitals to step up their game. Transparency......it's time."
What is the future of patient navigators in healthcare?
The future of patient navigation is empowerment through technology.
The Hammeras Group LLC is developing a website for Patients to be empowered with being informed and finding out needed information about doctors and hospitals, so that they can make good decisions for their health care needs, and ultimately have better experiences and outcomes with treatments and procedures.
Q&A with Candy Hammeras
Q: How long have you been involved in the medical industry and how did the Hammeras Group LLC get started? What was the motivation to start your business?
A: I have worked in the healthcare industry for over 25 years. 15 years in hospital management, 6 years as a consultant with an emphasis on assisting hospitals increase patient relations. The Hammeras Group, which began 4 years ago, was an organic transition which quickly blossomed from years of experience, strong relationships with hospitals and a trust from the communities I have served. Families began reaching out to me for assistance with their healthcare needs. My motivation is pure and simple; people in a healthcare crises need direction, focus and care. I do the best I can to provide this for them and it is my pleasure to do so.
Q: How do you generally work as a business? What exactly does The Hammeras Group do for your clients?
A: Clients, family members, neighbors, co-workers or friends who have someone close to them with a healthcare need (and who know of me and have experienced my services), typically refer them to The Hammeras Group, LLC. I like to say we become their "healthcare handlers" and do everything we can to ensure they are on the right track, feel supported and cared for. Healthcare has become a very difficult field to navigate, especially when dealing with a healthcare crises. The industry is vast, it is layered, it is frustrating and it is impersonal. Just making a simple phone call to schedule an appointment will consist of listening to a voicemail prompt, finally speaking to a scheduler to learn that the first available opening might be 1-6 weeks and then staying online to answer a long list of personal information. My team can handle these simple but time-consuming steps which saves our clients much frustration and gives them back alot of ther valuable personal time. Our services include the much needed, and much ignored "connecting of the dots" between providers. Ensuring that doctors are communicating and decisions are made timely is imperative to successful treatment. Even with new electronic medical records access, this is a step that is often missed through the maze of a doctor's busy schedule as well as the complexity of being inside a hospital. With a new and difficult (and sometimes rare) diagnoses, we assist our clients in locating the best expertise for the healthcare challenge they are experiencing. As the Principal of The Hammeras Group, I made a decision to remain a smaller and more intimate organization so that I may personally be involved with the families, visit with them when needed, consult with them personally, interact with their MDs..... and hug them a lot!
Q: In your bio it says, certain skills in a hospital setting, if taught and understood will promote a caring culture, increase patient/physician satisfaction, and better ensure that patients have a positive experience. Do you work with Hospital Administrators to create this type of atmosphere within the hospital?
A: In my consulting years, assisting hospital administrators create a more caring atmosphere in order to increase patient satisfaction was the reason they contracted for my services. The Hammeras Group is somewhat at the other end of the spectrum in that we only work with, and refer clients to, hospitals, physicians, facilities who are already at the top of their game. This means that they are committed to placing as much emphasis on the entire patient experience, as they do the clinical expertise; neither work well without the other! Yes, if along the way I or my clients experience a hiccup in their experience, administrators and myself quickly work through the issues to ensure a positive and caring experience. I am proud to affiliate with some of the best hospitals and doctors in California and the U.S. They understand and support my efforts for patients and we partner well together.
Q: What's been one of your biggest challenges in being an advocate in the medical industry for patients?
A: I am a huge advocate of 2nd and 3rd opinions when it comes to our health, or the health of a loved one. Quite often, we place too much trust on the first (and perhaps only) opinion of a diagnoses we receive. For my clients, my priority is to determine one of two things; 1. That enough information/expertise has been gathered to confirm accurate diagnoses, therefore the initial treatment is valid and safe or 2. Further research and additional opinions resulted in obvious need to make different choices. My biggest challenges are to help our clients understand that their healthcare deserves to be in the best hands; their life could depend on it! I like to say that we spend time editing and proofing everything else in life so it seems not only logical, but imperative, to do the same with our own healthcare. Our new healthcare environment should definitely support 2nd opinions, but this is another topic altogether!
Q: Is the medical insurance situation in this country, with so many people without coverage, been one of the biggest problems in the medical industry from your experience, and if not, what has been.
A: I don't pretend to be an expert on our healthcare system; it's complicated even for someone like myself with years of experience! What I do know is that we are not anywhere close to where we need to be. There is a huge difference between ensuring that everyone has healthcare coverage, and ensuring that everyone has access to exceptional healthcare coverage; those are two completely different conversations. We are not having these conversations and we need to!
Q: What's been one of your most rewarding experiences for you since starting the Hammeras Group, or in your career?
A: My entire career has been shaped by the faces that I have seen and by the hands I have held in my healthcare journey. I do not forget them. My greatest and most profound joy is to connect a client with the right doctor and/or the right hospital for their specific needs. I am humbled, beyond words, to say that I have seen the "right" partnership save lives by finding the exact fit for a diagnoses (children and adults). I cannot describe how emotional it is to learn when a life has literally been saved.
Q: What would you like to say in this article to hospitals around the country about better patient relations from the common problems you have seen exist from your experiences?
A: If I could communicate to all hospitals and all doctors, I would urge them to place priority on the entire patient experience. A simple act has been made so complicated.
Are you struggling with an aging parent’s changing needs?
Do you need a quarterback to manage your team of medical specialists?
Could you use a navigator to help you find caregiver solutions?
Our care coordination services are designed to help individuals and families manage care and communication needs. Working with a navigator will help you master the learning curve, find solutions and become your own best advocate.
We then propose and implement solutions to your achieve those goals. For example, we can…
Research hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and nursing homes.
Equip you to understand and manage medical bureaucracies.
Mobilize caregiving resources.
Find community-based resources that may be available to you.
Accompany you to doctor visits (in some areas) and coordinate timely information sharing between your healthcare providers.
Communicate with family members on your behalf.
The goal? 1. Healthcare help 2. To get all doctors/hospitals to step up their game. Transparency......it's time.— Candy Hammeras
George Lopez: Patient Advocacy & Health Care
"No American should ever lose his or her life, or spend the holidays in the hospital because of a condition that could have been prevented"— HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell
Contact Candy Hammeras
If You are a patient looking for an advocate, reach out to Candy Hammeras and the Hammeras Group:
949-500-1882 / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hammeras Group Website for more information.
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