Although very little formal training occurs, the concept of advocacy as a professional responsibility of healthcare professionals is not new.1,2 Speech pathologists often find themselves at the intersection of knowledge of patient needs and our ability to leverage influence. We realize our patient would benefit from a test or a tool, yet developing a plan to advocate is challenging. Although every situation is unique, a thoughtful, well-planned approach will provide the greatest opportunity for success. Here are some tips for advocating for your patients:

1.      The request is not about you

As empathic caregivers, we often consider requests for equipment to be personal. However, understanding the requested item is not for our benefit, but for the benefit of the patient, will assist in removing any sense of hesitation. It will open the door to a conversation that starts with “the patients need…” rather than “I need…” Such an approach may assist in removing personalities and emotions from the conversation.

2.      Know your audience

In advance of an informal discussion or formal meeting, understand the priorities of the decision-makers. Those with fiscal responsibilities typically make final decisions related to purchasing. In such cases, it is essential to understand the potential financial impact of a request. If the business can continue uninterrupted, what is the incentive to buy a new tool?

A.     Understand how the request may generate revenue

  • Will the device call for additional referrals?
  • Will the device provide quantitative or qualitative information that will improve dialogue with case managers and allow for increased length of stay?
  • Will the device eliminate or mitigate current costs of care and provide a return on investment over time?
  • How many patients could potentially benefit from the service or product?

B.     Be prepared

  • Create a spreadsheet explaining the financial impact.*
  • Compile and present data related to current or recent patients that would have benefited from the service or product.
  • Network with a colleague who has the service or product and learn how their practice was impacted.
  • Create a brief, professional presentation, using layman’s terms. This may help the decision maker realize the seriousness of the request.

3.      Be tenacious

Most requests are not met with an immediate response. After the presentation, ask for a timeline for future discussions. In the meantime, continue to gather data concerning missed opportunities or unmet care needs to present during follow-up.

4.      Do not get discouraged, be goal-oriented

Continue to keep a dialogue with decision-makers active by asking questions such as:

  • Since this is an essential need for quality patient care, how can we work together to achieve this goal?
  • Can this be included in the next budget cycle?
  • I wanted you to be aware, Mr. Smith would have benefited from the product (or service) we discussed.
  • The case manager indicated Mr. Smith would no longer be covered for services because I could not clearly document the benefits of care. The tool we discussed would have been of great benefit as it provides objective measurements, allowing for progress to be documented.

Advocacy is work. However, every patient’s care is affected by the environment in which their care is provided. This means we need to have the proper resources to be able to provide quality care. Having the necessary tools for a high-quality therapy program is a win for everyone.


*IOPI Medical has a new resource for customers, the Dsyphagia Cost Tool, that will be available on the website soon. If you would like support in calculating the dysphagia cost for your facility in the meantime, please email us at info@IOPImedical.com and we'd be happy to assist you.


  1. Andermann A. Taking action on the social determinants of health in clinical practice: a framework for health professionals. Can. Med. Assoc. J. 2016;188(17-18):E474-E483.
  2. Luft LM. The essential role of physician as advocate: how and why we pass it on. Can Med Educ J. 2017;8(3):e109-e116.