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Patient Advocates are Not the Enemy

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media, April 5, 2013

Lang gives that statement gravitas by her own reputation, which, she recognizes, is at risk if the organization doesn't live up to its lofty goals.

Over the years, predominantly in Georgia, Lang has been a thorn in the side of nonprofit hospitals as both a reporter and a patient advocate. She grew up poor in rural Georgia, and, after college, became a health policy reporter for Scripps-Howard and later, the Associated Press.

"I was very unpopular," she says. "Everyone just hates you."

She was frustrated as a reporter, but not because of the haters.

"I always had health in mind and was concerned with issues around health access," she says. "I was assigned to that beat and covered it with enthusiasm, but I was frustrated with seeing the issue as a reporter and not doing the actual work."

So she left reporting, to the relief of many senior executives at the nonprofits she covered, but that relief would be short-lived. She quickly resurfaced at Georgia Watch, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization in Atlanta.

There, she headed the Georgia Hospital Accountability Project, in which she worked closely with state and national stakeholders and federal policymakers in establishing standards for the community benefit obligations of nonprofit hospitals.

"At Georgia Watch, we took the viewpoint that healthcare is a finance issue for many," she says. "For the uninsured, the underinsured, and those unable to fully self-manage complex care, the role that hospitals play in people's lives surrounding healing, but especially surrounding bankruptcy, was and is huge."

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