Non-adversarial Private Patient Advocacy [Interview][Transcript]

Teri_Dreher_Professional_Patient_AdvocateGuest: Teri Dreher
Presenter: Neal Howard
Guest Bio: With over 36 years of clinical experience in Critical Care nursing, home based healthcare and expertise as a cardiovascular nurse clinician, Teri is well acquainted with the complexities of the modern healthcare system. She has served as a nursing leader, mentor, educator and consistent patient advocate throughout her career in some of the best hospitals across the country. Her passion for patient safety and drive to keep the patient at the center of the American healthcare system led her to incorporate North Shore Patient Advocates in 2011, serving clients throughout the northern suburbs of Chicago.

Segment overview: Teri Dreher, RN, CCRN, iRNPA, Owner/CEO of North Shore Patient Advocates, shares with us some examples of protecting patients rights, some common reasons that private individuals call for her help, and the response of doctors and hospitals when they see a professional advocate come into their facilities.


Health Professional Radio – Professional Patient Advocate

Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to Health Professional Radio. I am your host Neal Howard, so glad that you could join us today. You know there is a new trend that’s emerging, the fast growing field of patient advocacy. More and more consumers and families are hiring private professional health advocates or PPHA as they’re called. Many who experienced registered nurses to guide them through this maze of modern healthcare that we call the Affordable Care Act. Our guest in studio today is Teri Dreher, a champion of patient advocacy, owner and CEO of North Shore Patient Advocates and she is here today to discuss patient rights and the protection of those rights. How are you doing today Teri?

Teri Dreher: Very well, thank you Neal. It’s a pleasure to be here.

N: Talking about patients’ rights, we all hear about the right to know what’s going on as far as your healthcare plan is concerned. The right to know what drugs interact with each other, the right to know whether or not your physician’s getting paid, these are all patient’s rights above and beyond that. But the right to be safe when we’re talking about the right to be protected and not die while hospitalized, let’s talk about some of those rights. As CEO and owner of North Shore Patients Advocates, what are some examples of protecting a patient’s rights to go above and beyond what we normally know as patient advocacy?

T: Well a lot of people don’t realize that when you go into a hospital all the documentation that is going on in the computers and by nurses and doctors and therapists and everything, the medical records of the patient, legally are actually the property of the patient.

N: Uh huh.

T: Now very few tries of people actually go and request copy of those medical records. And sometimes medical record department of hospitals will tell you that you have to wait 2 to 3 weeks after discharge to get a complete record and they’ll charge you something per page of those records. But if anybody ever has any kind of question or wants any access to any information their lab values, a hard copy of any of their x-rays, or CAT scans, or MRI’S even to physician reports, they have the right to request that. It has to be done in writing and something that we do all the time. We go and find patient records and review them, which I find is common make sure that no stone has been unturned in terms of the patient care. So that’s definitely one right. And a lot of the education that people seem too busy to give clients in the hospital, patients from the hospital need more and more education than ever before. Fortunately a lot of people are very savvy with the computer and they can look up a lot of information too but patients definitely need to avail themselves of their right to full disclosure of any of the pros and cons of any procedure, the worst possible scenario, any kind of adverse reactions to medication. So if you don’t understand something, make sure you ask.

N: When you’re talking about not understanding something and being sure to ask if the right questions aren’t asked, I mean the results can be deadly, I mean you learn that first hand, your father in law became critically ill out of the United States in another country and had a life threatening condition but was about to be released. Give us some example of how you protected your father-in-law’s rights.

T: (laugh) Oh that was quite a journey. Yes, we came back in an emergency transport back to the US after he had a couple of near death experiences in a little community hospital on an island of Belize. And we were just fortunate that we have a nurse, myself and the family to go with him on that transport him back to the US. But the emergency room doctor in the middle of the night heard the entire story and all the signs and symptoms that were really pointing to a life-threatening situation. And he went out and talked to the primary care doctor and came back and try to say “Well these things happen sometimes, we’re gonna send you home on an injection to thicken the blood,” well I knew that, that was not standard of care and that was not a good choice so I just basically stood there in the emergency room and said “He’s not going anywhere. He needs to go to the interventional lab tomorrow morning and get a procedure to remove these blood clots. He can’t even stand up without passing-out.” And a lot of times emergency room doctors are so pressed with time that they don’t really take time to listen and process the entire situation. And because I’m a nurse and I’m used to working with doctors, I guess I knew what I was looking at and I knew if he went home that night he would have died.

N: Now what are some tips when it comes to researching and identifying say the best doctor, hospital or as you say if they’re elderly, the best nursing home for a patient for those of us who aren’t nurses? What types of questions should we be asking?

T: Well that’s a long topic Neal? (laugh)

N: Well briefly, give us some.

N: What we do at North Shore Patient Advocates we’ll go on standard websites like Health Grades and things like that to find out the basics, but we don’t stop there. We go and talk to the colleagues of those physicians that we’re looking for as experts in the Chicagoland area. And we’ll go find out who works with them and who the doctors in that hospital, which on their own family members too. So we have a lot of contacts in major hospitals around the Chicagoland area and we just, we’ll go talk to emergency room nurses and ICU nurses and physicians that we know in those hospitals and tell them to give us the straight scoop, oh really, really considered to be the cream of the crop for that particular specialty. A lot of times on those internet sites like Health Grade, people that posted in there can have all their friends and families go and give some really good grades. (laugh) We just don’t really, really know about that so we don’t stop there.

N: With these type of situation, it doesn’t necessarily have to be adversarial to be an advocate.

T: Oh no.

N: But what type of reaction do you get when doctors, administrators of the hospital, or some other facility see someone from North Shore Patient Advocates on their facility’s ground, what type of reaction do you get?

T: Well it’s one of two reactions. One, they either love it and they totally get it, that nobody has time in hospital and they absolutely love the fact that we’re spending more time with families and explaining everything and going through things with the family to bring them along and help them make decisions. The other thing is sometimes they’ll get a little bit defensive and we are not adversarial at all. We like doctors, we like nurses and hospitals and so we really collaborate. We explain to them right away that were not there for any kind of legal reason at all. And we describe ourselves in a language that they understand, a word ‘transitional care managers.’ We know these patients inside and out of the hospital and we’re gonna work together with them to prevent any adverse medical outcomes or events happening and make sure that they have a smooth safe transition to home. And they are delighted with that explanation. So we have really consistently great relationships with different hospitals around here and they love seeing us on the case. But I have to say I think almost announces a patient as kind of VIP if they have their own private nurse advocate. It means they take safety very, very seriously for their family.

N: Now as we wrap up, let our listeners know where they can gain more information on North Shore Patient Advocates.

T: Sure Neal, we have a website and people can call me directly if they’re interested our direct office number is 847-612-6684. And they can also send us an email to our website as well.

N: You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio, I’m your host Neal Howard. We’ve been in studio today talking with Teri Dreher, RN, Owner and CEO of North Shore Patient Advocates, Chicagoland’s largest staffing or patient advocacy facility. And she’s been here with us talking about patient’s rights and how those patient’s rights need to be protected and giving us some examples of those rights being protected by her personally and by the system at large. Transcript and audio of this program are available at and also at and you can subscribe to our podcast on iTunes.

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