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Engaging Individuals in Healthcare Self-Advocacy

As with most new programs in the Search, Inc universe, the Medical Self-Advocates Pilot Program (MSAPP) all started with a single question posed to those we serve: What more can Search do to empower you?

And as with every answer to that deceptively simple question, the MSAPP is a work in progress: one designed with and alongside the residents in our charge.

This past January, the Medical Self Advocates Pilot Program (MSAPP) was developed with dual intentions: to educate our individuals about general health care issues, and to promote self-advocacy in the management of their care.

At the core of the MSAPP is a gender-specific Personal Wellness Form that lists the standard, routine medical appointments mandated by Medicare/Medicaid. Examples include their annual physical, and visits with the podiatrist, optometrist, and dentists. These appointments are presented in simple, easy to understand grids that are kept at the self-advocates’ homes in the back of their individual “All About Me” binders.

"All About Me" binders are a cross between a journal and a vision board. They creatively use word and picture collages as a way for individuals to communicate basic information about themselves - everything from name and favorite color, to important medical information. The binders can be used by medical professionals or even staff and are especially helpful for our individuals who are nonverbal.

Engaging Individuals in Healthcare All About Me Binder

The MSAPP participants (currently at 26 and growing) receive appointment cards the week before the office visit occurs. Those cards serve as both notification and reference. When an appointment is completed, the individual checks the corresponding box on their Wellness Form, complete! They then store the card in their binder.

When the self-advocates meet quarterly with the MSAPP advisor, those same appointment cards are used to cross-check and document the appointments required by the State of Illinois. If an appointment seems to have been missed, or if there is a question about a result, the resident has the option of communicating directly with Search’s Medical Services team using a dedicated form kept in the back of their binder.

The goal of the MSAPP is that over time individuals will have developed their own system of oversight. They will have a new sense of responsibility for services they receive, and clarity about what choices are available to them within their current network of coverage.

So, next time we ask the question: “What more can Search do to empower you?” the answers given by the MSAPP-ers will spring from the wisdom born of real-world experience. Those are the kind of answers that best inspire real and lasting change in any system.

Written By:

Jennifer Gledhill, Community Inclusion Coordinator & Jackie Rovner, Clinical Services Division Manager

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