Frequently Asked Questions

Why "GreyZone" as your company name?

Very good question. This name was chosen purposefully to describe accurately the population we serve: people within the black and white diagnostic criteria for whom answers have been hard to come by.

In 2015, an article in the New England Journal of Medicine used the term “gray-zone medicine” to describe this area of uncertainty. The article spoke to the “misguided perspective that health-care is a binary world in which interventions are either effective or ineffective, appropriate or inappropriate.” For patients in the grey zone, diagnosis and treatment are rarely black-and-white. Typically, our clients are faced with strange symptoms, uncertain diagnoses, and multiple treatment options. Even with the support of existing providers, the way forward may not be clear.

GreyZone Founder and Chief Care Advocate Io Dolka first was exposed to this term when it was applied to her own medical journey several years back. After a decade of chronic illness and recovery, Io and her primary care provider, reminiscing what it took to figure out the answers in that long-winding road, described Io as being a “grey zone patient.” That term stuck.

Years later, Io created GreyZone as her own solution to serving patients like her in this ambiguous area of medicine. The name has been welcomed by most GreyZone clients who identify with this term immediately and most providers who understand it intuitively.

What is a medical care advocate? Is it different from a patient advocate or a health advocate?

Historically, multiple terms have been used to describe advocacy in the field of medicine. The terms medical care/bedside advocate, patient advocate and health or healthcare advocate have and are used interchancheably often. At GreyZone, we focus on medical care or otherwise known as bedside advocacy. More specifically, our services are a marriage of medical / bedside advocacy and care management, hence the title of Care Advocate for our team members.

The role of the advocate is not standardized yet but a lot of work is currently underway in an effort to do so. Our Founder, Io Dolka, served on the Patient Advocate Certification Board since its inception and for several years. PACB has been a successful effort to create an international certification / credential for patient advocates.

You can read more about Who is a Health Advocate and the Different Types of Health Advocacy at these informative pages of the Washington State Health Advocacy Association (WASHAA).

What services do you provide at GreyZone?

At GreyZone, we offer expert medical advocacy support, care management and care coordination services to people in Washington state and from around the world, in person or remotely. We research medical condition, treatment option, and clinical trial information; prepare and streamline medical records; support clients with care coordination and management services; and organize access to a carefully selected network of highly experienced board-certified physicians, expert diagnosticians, specialists, alternative care providers, nutritionists and other hand-picked professionals that could help.

Our approach is customized to you and will likely include some combination of these advocacy services:

  • Help you find the appropriate providers while searching for a diagnosis of your symptoms.
  • Arrange and attend medical appointments with you. Take notes during these appointments which we provide to you afterwards along with additional information on what was said during the visit.
  • Coordinate care between various providers (outside of the hospital).
  • Obtain, transfer, streamline, organize and digitize medical records – create actionable summaries and binders you can take to your doctors with only the pertinent information needed.
  • Help you understand you current diagnosis, learn more about your condition and harness available patient wisdom.
  • Translate complicated medical information for your family members.
  • Research treatment options, including clinical trials.
  • Research, identify and connect you to appropriate resources as needed.
  • Support you through managing a chronic condition.
  • Provide regular check-in sessions with you to monitor your progress and advocate for appropriate care with your providers.
  • Assist with transitions including hospital admissions, stay and discharge; transfer to another facility, care center or home.

You can read more on our Services page.

Some information above shared with permission from the Washington State Health Advocacy Association website.

How are your services different from a medical provider?

GreyZone LLC provides patient advocacy services to its clients. The goal is to help each client obtain medical diagnoses for their underlying medical condition or conditions (if any), to provide education and advocacy, and to support effective management of the client’s health.

At no time does GreyZone, LLC or any Care Advocate(s) function as a care provider or provide medical diagnosis or treatment. GreyZone is not licensed or authorized to practice medicine. Our role is strictly as your advocate and advisor, to help you and your care providers understand your situation and where appropriate to make recommendations for further or different care.

Do you work with families or only with individuals?

We believe that when a person is ill the whole family is affected. Usually, we are approached by loved ones who are concerned for their daughter, brother, mother or uncle. We typically bring on the patient as the client and work with family members to assist in their care. Family members often function as unofficial advocates, and they are welcome in our meetings and circles of communication. It is common for family members to pay for our services rather than the client. When it comes to privacy and sharing of health information, we always defer to the client’s/patient’s wishes.

How do you bill for your services?

We start with a free 20-min phone consultation to briefly discuss your needs and see if we are a good fit for you and/or your family.

From there we offer a variety of flat fee, retainer and hourly rate billing for our team members’ services. We strive for transparency in our fees and have a “No Surprises” approach to everything we do. Our fees are not covered by health insurance plans. GreyZone LLC does not bill health insurers on your behalf. We work closely with our clients to find the most suitable plan for their situation. We also wish to make it easy for you to be able to pay for our services. We accept many different forms of payment:

  • Secure and free electronic bank transfers or eChecks
  • Regular checks by mail
  • All major credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover)
  • PayPal and PayPal credit (6-month interest free payment installments)
  • ApplePay
I have been told by some doctors that "it is all in my head" but I know it is not! Can you really help me figure out what is wrong?

We hear this from many patients who are struggling with complex medical conditions or who are struggling to obtain an accurate diagnosis. For individuals with rare disorders, diagnosis can be a long journey fraught with disappointment, frustration, misdiagnosis and disbelief. Did you know for example that it takes an average five years from the start of symptoms to an accurate diagnosis for multiple sclerosis and 11 years on average for celiac disease?

There is a saying in medicine: “when you hear hoof beats, think of horses, not zebras.” It is meant to signal to doctors to think of the most common ailment that could explain the presenting symptoms rather than an exotic or rare medical condition. You should know that GreyZone is a zebra-friendly organization, ready to support you through ambiguity, rarity, and medical mysteries of all kinds. Although we cannot guarantee that we and you will be successful in obtaining a definitive diagnosis of your medical condition(s) or a care plan that will be able to resolve your health issues, we promise to do everything in our power to support you and speed this process along.

Our approach is customized to you. We spend the time required to get to know you and understand your immediate and long-term needs. We see the whole person, not just your medical situation. We strive to treat you with compassion, respect, kindness, and understanding, and keep your values and goals front and center. These elements guide our work so together we can obtain the right care for you.

I have multiple chronic conditions and I see several doctors but no one asks me what I want for my care or has a big picture view in mind of all my conditions and care plans. Could you help with your services?

Absolutely. Continuity of care is a significant part of what we do at GreyZone. So is our focus on patient-centered care. We take the time to understand your priorities and health goals—and can help communicate these needs to your existing providers. We are here to translate medical jargon, provide specialist summaries, and craft a big-picture care plan based on your providers’ advice and your own health needs. We can then help coach you along as you work towards reaching your goals through time, providing support as you need it along the way.