“What causes the most anxiety is not knowing.” Donna Seibert lives in the unknown. Her job is to get people through it.
As a healthcare advocate and the CEO of Alongside Medical Ally, Dr. Donna Seibert (who goes by Dr. Donna) helps people of all ages in the Boston area navigate the healthcare system. In addition to being a physician for over 30 years, Dr. Seibert has experience in nursing and higher education, giving her a broad prospective on how the COVID-19 pandemic impacts the larger healthcare system.
The coronavirus has challenged how Dr. Donna does her job. Ever resilient, she’s embraced technology, remote work, and Bill4Time to help her patients from afar.
What Is A Healthcare Advocate?
Dr. Donna facilitates communication and care on the patient’s behalf — and on the behalf of their families, who are often too overwhelmed by their loved one’s illness and the visits to the doctor’s office. Donna even gives the doctors she works with a detailed medical profile which lists pertinent medical and contact information about her patients.
Each medical profile concludes with a care plan and intimate insights about the patient. They need to have pills in their applesauce. They are hard of hearing, so speak into their left ear.
Managing the healthcare system for so many people can get complicated, and Dr. Donna relies on Bill4Time to help.
How Bill4Time Helps
Dr. Donna uses Bill4Time to organize documents, notes, communications, and medical files for each client. She uses the quick and easy invoicing in Bill4Time to save her time so she can focus on what matters most: taking care of her patients.
In this interview, Dr. Donna has some advice for everyone on getting through COVID-19, adapting to remote work, using Bill4Time to become more efficient, and maintaining a healthy perspective.
Dr. Donna on Transitioning to Remote Work
Before COVID-19, what was a typical work day like?
“I’d say that 60% of my time was spent problem-solving on the phone orchestrating healthcare and getting services. Another 30% of my time was spent going to doctors’ appointments, answering clients’ questions, or listening to their concerns. The last 10% of my time was spent consulting new patients and their families.
Those in-person consultations would happen at the client’s home after an initial phone call. At that point, I would approach them with a medical profile and a care plan that we’d review, as well as a list of their medical issues and how to respond to them. From there, they’d decide if they’d hire me as an advocate, where I’d manage the healthcare process for the family. Or they might hire me as a consultant, where I’d advise the patient on what questions to ask the doctor, and how to come up with a written agenda for their visit.”
How has your work changed since COVID-19?
“Since COVID-19 began, hospitals have restricted who can enter. All but essential doctor appointments are held by teleconferencing and I join patients on these calls. Today, I’d say I spend 25-30% of my time on Zoom meetings.
Like everyone else, I miss the in-person interaction that comes with my job. I rely on visual interaction to navigate the healthcare journey with my clients — especially for in-person consultations.
When I’m getting to know a new client, going into their family’s home can be very helpful. I can see who is depended on the most in the family and assess the family dynamics. Now, I have to rely on the tone of voice in phone calls, or facial expressions in Zoom. I appreciate Zoom and FaceTime, but it’s not the same!”
Embracing Technology During COVID-19
Before you used Bill4Time, how were you running your business?
“Before Bill4Time, I was manually billing — and it would take about an hour per client to find all of my billable items, transcribe them to the invoice, and then add them up and manually deduct from the retainer.
I used a template from Word. (There were many issues with this.) Of course, this meant I would try to bill as infrequently as possible!”
How does Bill4Time help you work remotely?
“With Bill4Time, all of my billables are in one spot. I can look at them throughout the month to see how much of the retainer has been used for each client and determine if I need to let them know if the retainer needs to be refilled before the end of the month.
With the extra downtime I have during COVID-19, I’ve learned the system even better from YouTube and made great gains. For learners like myself, these training videos are very useful for learning your way around Bill4Time. They show the depth of this program and what it could really do for me.
In particular, I needed some help with retainers and pulling the money from them. Oh, and finding the Reports section was HUGE, especially at tax time!”
Does remote work create opportunities to improve and modernize your business?
“One pro of remote work in the age of coronavirus is having more time to learn more technology that enables me to improve or streamline my business. I’ve also found that my clients are more open to trying new things such as Zoom.
Before this happened, some clients were not open to Zoom video conferencing. When I needed to have this face time in the past, I had no problem commuting. But I can no longer see my clients — who live anywhere from the South Shore all the way to New Hampshire.
Under these circumstances, I’m thankful that Zoom can give me a look into my clients’ facial expressions. We’ve both adapted. Now that they’re more used to Zoom, I can imagine that we’ll be using it instead of phone calls in the future.”
Managing Your Work and Mental Health During COVID-19
Do you have recommendations for professionals who might not be used to remote work?
“If you don’t make a schedule, you’re very easily distracted at home. Each day, write down your priorities. If I don’t do this, I’ll forget what I need to do. You should also write down your weekly goals to identify the most important tasks among your daily priorities.”
What would you like to say to anyone who is afraid about their job and their health during this time?
“Be careful and stay well, but don’t be afraid. You will get through this. You’ve been through worse. Remember to live more mindfully and be compassionate.
To get a greater perspective on life and health, read Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. It makes you realize that you have a lot of control over your health and mindset — at a time where you need to remember this more than ever.”
Top 3 Takeaways From the Interview
With COVID-19 fundamentally changing the healthcare system and putting the elderly at risk, Donna’s job has become more important than ever.
We can all learn something from Dr. Donna. Here are the top 3 takeaways from our interview, with a focus on working remotely and maintaining a healthy perspective during COVID-19.
Takeaway #1: If you’re intimated by billing, invoicing, and accounting, Bill4Time can do the heavy lifting for you.
Takeaway #2: Bill4Time has a complete library of YouTube training videos that empower you to manage your business, whether you’re a medical advocate, lawyer, or graphic designer.
Takeaway #3: Whenever possible, substitute phone calls with Zoom calls so you can get face time with your clients.
Even though we’re more alone than ever before, Donna put it best: “You don’t have to do it all by yourself.”
About Donna Seibert
Donna Seibert, M.D. is a private professional healthcare advocate and founder of Alongside Medical Ally.
She has a background in nursing, higher education, and medicine which enables her to provide excellent care to her clients. She earned her M.D. degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.
Working as an advocate, Dr. Donna has successfully guided patients through healthcare dilemmas, found healthcare solutions, shared needed resources and most importantly, optimized the patient experience for her clients. She keeps the patient at the center of care and uses her breadth of knowledge to come alongside the patient to improve patient outcomes. Dr. Donna works to promote advocacy through her memberships in the National Association of Healthcare Advocacy, the Alliance of Professional Health Advocates, and the local group of advocates, Massachusetts Health Care Advocates. She is also a board member of the Ipswich Refugee Program and acts as a medical resource for them. Dr. Donna recently had an op ed letter about advocacy published in the Boston Globe. She loves spreading the word about advocacy and welcomes general inquiries about this important work.
She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org