Interview with Amy Cuykendall, President and Founder, Core Care Patient Advocates, August 25, 2011
1. What services does Core Care Patient Advocates provide?
Our Registered Nurses conduct full health assessments, including past medical history, in order to establish the client’s current health status and needs. They order all needed medical records from the client’s doctors, hospitals, and any other providers that have served the client – records that will support the RN’s findings and provide additional information. The RN then creates a care plan for guidance and personal assistance throughout the client’s future medical treatments. This may include accompaniment to doctor appointments, communication with physicians to ask questions or make recommendations, facilitate communication among physicians, research the client’s condition and all available treatments, and much more. The RNs use their experience and training to help get the client the best medical care possible by looking at the entire person/patient – not just isolated symptoms. The Pharmacist on our team assesses and evaluates the client’s medications to ensure the client is taking the proper meds and that there are no harmful interactions. She also gives our RNs questions to ask the physicians. We are often asked by families to help find nursing homes for their loved ones. In order to find the perfect facility, we conduct hours of research into the family’s and patient’s expectations, resources to pay for the nursing home, medical needs and amenities of the facility.
2. What kinds of clients do you best serve?
Almost always, we are hired by family members of patients, and the patients can be of any age and of any health status. We provide different benefits to patients with different needs. Some of our clients have acute health issues that require guidance and advocacy for just a few months until their health improves and we get a better system in place among their providers. Others have very complex health issues, multiple issues, as well as multiple doctors and medications. Those clients call us because they can’t get answers to their questions and their providers are not treating the whole person – the client is not getting better and no one is helping her get better. Some of our clients are merely getting older but are otherwise healthy, and their families want an extra set of eyes and ears at their appointments and to check in from time to time. Our clients have ranged in ages from 44 to 87. Some are disabled, some have addictions, some have psychological challenges, and some have no other conditions but want a private nurse to accompany them to routine surgery – they run the spectrum.3. What are some of the questions clients or their family members should be asking themselves that most likely direct them to seeking your services? Both clients (patients) and family members should be asking the same questions, for the most part. These include:
- How many medications are being taken/prescribed?
- How many doctors are being seen?
- Are our medical questions being answered?
- Do we know what to ask the doctors?
- Do we feel rushed during doctor appointments?
- Do we know what the doctor’s plan of action is for the future?
- Has there been a recent hospitalization, hospital visit (within the last 6 months)?
- Is there a looming surgery?
- Would a second opinion be helpful?
Family members may also want to ask themselves:
- Is [Mother, Father, Grandmother, etc] able to tell me what happened at the doctor appointment?
- Is she able to tell me what the doctor said, what the new prescription is for?
Clients often call us in crisis mode – after a recent fall or the third fall, or when a family member’s health is deteriorating rapidly. We encourage people to call us before that point, such as first diagnosis, first hospitalization, first sign that a loved one is getting older or health is deteriorating. We are very confident that we can prevent the rapid deterioration if we get involved early on.
4. What expertise is on your staff to provide services to your clients?
We only bring experienced Registered Nurses onto our team. They often have case management and supervisory experience, and many of them have been charge nurses in hospitals. Currently, the experience of our RNs ranges from 19 years to 35 years. They are very well rounded with wide ranges of experience, including volunteer work. They must be assertive and able to challenge physicians or insurance companies that make decisions which are not in the best interest of our clients – true advocates to speak on behalf of the clients. They must also have up-to-date clinical knowledge and experience. Our RNs often say that they are “problem solvers” and the work they do involves “solving a puzzle”. They also must be able to take initiative, be flexible in schedule, and communicate well and get along well with our clients. They must be tactful and respectful with physicians. The list of qualifications is long – of every 25-30 resumes we receive, we typically interview 2. We currently have RNs in Jacksonville, Melbourne, Tampa Bay and West Palm Beach.
5. Why did you start Core Care Patient Advocates?
I started the company in 2009 because I saw a gap in the system. People rely 100% on their physicians and other providers with the expectation that the providers want to help them get better. People expect their doctors to know all of their symptoms and health history without telling them; people expect their doctors to instantly know the underlying causes of their ailments and “fix” them. Then they blame the doctor later if they relapse or simply don’t improve. I’ve learned that each of us needs to take responsibility for our own healthcare and wellbeing. Physicians and other providers are human and things slip through the cracks. The system is flawed – doctors are extremely busy and don’t get paid like they used to. Medical students are encouraged to go into specialties because they will make more money – the primary care doctors are dwindling in numbers, and they are the ones who look at the whole person. Pharmaceutical companies are pushing their meds to make money. Medicine is a business. The only ones who suffer are the patients. On a personal note, many years ago, I went to the hospital in excruciating pain and was so heavily sedated (by the nurse and under doctor’s orders) that I could not speak, let alone tell the doctor what hurt. He sent me home with no remedy because I could not tell him what was wrong. The hospital then sent me a bill for $1,000. Had I had an advocate with me – a voice for me – I would have received the diagnosis and treatment I needed. After a second opinion, it was determined that I had a cyst and it was promptly removed.