Helping Hands from page 8
"Many times I'm able to save my clients
much frustration because I'm familiar
with the medical system and what it takes
to navigate safely through:' she says. "I
want my clients to feel that I'm their doc-
tor in the family'
After 29 years in private practice as an
allergy and asthma physician, Dr. Carol
Gordon Devore of West Bloomfield,
changed directions. This year, she started
Amazing HealthCare Consultants in Troy,
a medical advocacy business.
"The confusing healthcare system is
often referred to as the healthcare maze,
and my goal is to help patients successfully
navigate this maze,"
says Devore, who iden-
tifies herself as a private
or personal healthcare
advocate. "It's likely to
become even more con-
fusing when more of
the Affordable Care Act
comes into play:'
has hung up her stethoscope, Devore
loves being a doctor and plans to use
her knowledge and skills to help clients
by preparing them for doctors' visits,
teaching them to ask the appropri-
ate questions and showing them how to
get the answers they need. She has part-
nered with Rachel Decena of Waterford,
a healthcare claims specialist, to help
patients with medical billing and insurance.
"Rachel will be a huge asset to my business
because she understands a client's insurance
coverage and can relieve families from deal-
ing with all the claims that arrive following a
treatment and recovery; Devore says.
"I think part of my interest in creating
this business is based on the Jewish values
of kindness and compassion, and respect for
the elderly:' she says. "My husband, Mark, a
gastroenterologist, and I have always been
guided by these principles in our interaction
with our family, friends and patients7
The ACA continues to change the face of
healthcare in America. The first changes
became effective after passage in 2010, and
new parts of the law will be implemented Jan. 1,
2014, when the biggest part of the law, the indi-
vidual mandate, ensures almost every American has
some form of insurance or government coverage to pay for health care.
Before you hire an independent health advocate, make sure they are
well informed about some of the important aspects of this bill.
Independent health advocates should be prepared for those changes
and be able to help their clients. For example, they should be able to
explain the individual mandate to purchase health insurance for those
without coverage and may be called upon to help them make the right
Patients with pre-existing conditions now will find coverage that was
not available previously. A patient advocate should be able to point them
in the right direction to find resources.
A patient advocate also should know about the dozens of benefits
from the preventive health measures in the bill, such as blood pressure
screening, depression screening, obesity counseling, STD (sexually trans-
mitted disease) screenings, breastfeeding counseling and some vaccines.
An advocate's job is to make sure patients don't get billed for these
tests and that they're taken at the appropriate time.
online support groups.
"Some clients approached me as an inde-
pendent adviser because they felt the hospi-
tal case manager limited recommendations
only to their healthcare system:' she says. "I
can connect clients to clinical trials, arrange
for a nurse to attend appointments, and find
a mentor who has experienced the same or
Felsenfeld emphasizes the importance of
having a professional health care advocate for
appointments because she finds most fam-
ily members are too emotionally involved
to objectively listen, ask questions or take
She also does geriatric care management,
assessing and coordinating life care needs for
older persons facing challenges in daily liv-
ing such as memory loss, loss of mobility or
caring for a spouse.
"Laurel is the director of my mother's
health:' says Dan Weiss of West Bloomfield.
"My mother suffers from Alzheimer's and
lives in a group home. With Laurel's help, she
has maintained an active lifestyle these past
Nurses As Patient Advocates
Laurel Felsenfeld of Farmington Hills, a
certified case management nurse and reha-
bilitation nurse, titles herself as a healthcare
advocate, navigator and coach who works
with individuals on a private pay basis. Her
typical client is a family or individual strug-
gling to find the right care
and support resources
for dealing with a serious
Since opening her
business 16 years ago,
Felsenfeld often is called
upon to research leading
treatment centers for con-
ventional and alternative
options, organize medical
records for second opinions, schedule and
coordinate appointments, and find local and
10 October 3 • 2013
Healthcare advocate Laurel Felsenfeld is the "director of my mother's life," says
Dan Weiss of West Bloomfield. His mother Edee Weiss, left, has Alzheimer's. Next to
Edee is Dan, his daughter, Melissa, wife, Michelle and sons Jake and Michael.
"When mother was in her condo, Laurel
rearranged the rooms to reduce her chances
of falling. She's the one who helped us get
mother's car keys. She's the one who sits
down with the family and gives us guidance
so we can make tough legal and health deci-
sions. Laurel has been like an extra sister;
"It is buyer beware when it comes to hir-
ing a health advocate because there is no
required license to practice Felsenfeld says.
"A lay person who has cared for a spouse or
parent can claim to be an expert. However,
a professional patient advocate that is a
licensed health care professional must prac-
tice according to the professional standards
of the licensing board for that profession of
"In addition, certified case managers
must have met the education and experi-
ence requirements for those certifications
and must have the required continuation
education hours to maintain them — a good
reason to ask for credentials and experience
when hiring a patient advocate:'
Felsenfeld feels her profession will con-
tinue to grow as consumers see the value
in getting what they need faster and more
Social Workers As Advocates
Miry Bernard Serlin established Michigan
Senior Planning in Bingham Farms, a pri-
vate geriatric case management business, in
2010 after serving as director of ElderCare
Solutions of Michigan, a division of Jewish
Family Service (JFS) of Metropolitan Detroit
"I work with families to find the best care
and treatment for older patients:' she says.
"It may include researching a patient's diag-
nosis, taking notes during visits to doctors
or finding medical specialists. Frequently, it
involves bringing families together because
not everyone wants the same thing for their
mother. My job is to make sure they do what
the patient wants, which is often about mak-
ing life comfortable, particularly at the end:'
Serlin has hired two additional case man-
agers so that clients can access their services
Patient advocates have been around for
decades but geriatric care managers, or care
coordinators, are a somewhat new health
care area. Researching and coordinating all
of the care options for seniors is a huge com-
mitment. Families prefer using their time
visiting parents rather than juggling paper-
work. As a result, social workers, nurses and
other professionals came to believe that they
could make a profession out of helping care-
givers. They hung out their shingles and a
profession was born.
"I find that most geriatric care managers
are social workers, nurses or others who have
worked in the elder care field:' Serlin says.
"Because credentials and regulations haven't
made it to this industry, it's always a good
idea to ask what qualifies them to do what
they do. It's not good enough if they respond
they just happen to 'like seniors:"
Serlin believes they should be able to