Healthcare organizations that cared for the thousands of people injured in last month's ravaging earthquake in Southern California in recent weeks have been devising ways to help their own workers bounce back from the disaster and maintain good relations with valued customers.
Chatsworth, Calif.-based CareAmerica Health Plans, a managed-care subsidiary of Burbank, Calif.-based UniHealth America, is offering short-term financial relief for its 500 employees through an interest-free loan program providing as much as $2,000 per employee. The company so far has processed more than $250,000 in loans.
For employees unable to immediately commute to work from the Antelope Valley, an area cut off from major travel arteries by damaged freeways, CareAmerica established a nearby telecommuting work site to help workers cut down their travel times, which have grown to two hours each way.
And to ensure its 200,000 HMO enrollees had access to care, CareAmerica initiated a telephone outreach plan to offer affiliated providers assistance in clean-up and business resumption.
Various managed-care organizations also announced plans to pay 100% of emergency department costs for enrollees injured during the temblor.
At Centinela Hospital in Inglewood, executives reassured workers whose homes were devastated by the quake that their jobs were secure. Employees unable to report to work immediately following the quake received a full week's pay. The hospital also provided hotel lodging for workers displaced from their homes, boarded pets and offered financial assistance for employees needing cash deposits to relocate to new housing.
Outside of Southern California, Irving, Texas-based Voluntary Hospitals of America has established an earthquake relief fund with a $25,000 donation. The alliance is asking employees of its 953 member hospitals nationwide to make contributions to the relief fund for some 70 workers employed at five VHA hospitals in Southern California who lost their homes.
Room with a view.A waning tourism market is forcing Hawaii healthcare and business leaders to consider new ways to woo visitors to the islands and at the same time generate patient business for the state's hospitals.
Queen's International Corp., a business development subsidiary of Honolulu-based Queen's Health System, has commissioned a study by the University of Hawaii School of Travel Industry Management to determine whether joint promotion of the Aloha State's healthcare and tourist industries will help lure visitors from Pacific Rim nations and revitalize the state's ailing economy.
K. Tim Yee, president and chief executive officer of Queen's International, said island hospitals already recognize the potential for creating a significant market base of international patients, noting that 490-bed Queen's Medical Center treated about 500 foreign patients in 1993. And that was without any healthcare-related marketing program.
If the results of the survey, due this summer, prove him correct, Mr. Yee said there may come a time in the near future when healthcare facilities market specialty services such as heart bypasses and cataract surgeries as well as executive fitness and wellness programs as part of a family vacation or executive retreat package to Waikiki.
Monitoring the industry.Want to talk healthcare? A lively discussion may be just a modem call away. The University of Minnesota has begun a free, on-line forum for healthcare administrators, providers, researchers or anyone interested in health issues.
The forum, called HEALTHMGMT, is available to anyone with e-mail access to the Internet worldwide electronic network. The cooperative, not-for-profit venture aims to improve the sharing of ideas and information across organizational, professional and national boundaries. The forum has been in operation for about six months and has more than 500 participants, said James Goes, an assistant professor of healthcare management at UM and manager of the forum.
To sign up for a free subscription, send an e-mail message to [email protected] with the following command on the first line of the message: subscribe HEALTHMGMT firstname lastname.
An automatic acknowledgement will be sent, along with detailed instructions on how to use the forum. For more information, call 612-624-1110.
Kodak's Olympic moment.Hockey players checked hard into the boards or speed skaters who take a nasty spill during this winter's Olympic Games in Norway might have their injuries diagnosed through teleradiology.
A network for transmission of X-ray images links two hospitals near the Olympic skating rinks in Hamar and Gjovik to consulting physicians at Olympic Hospital in Lillehammer, the main site of the events.
The system was set up by the Games' "official imaging sponsor," Eastman Kodak Co. It's one way to avoid difficult travel because of Norway's mountainous terrain and the Games' heavy traffic, said a spokeswoman for Rochester, N.Y.-based Kodak.
Like many Olympic facilities, the imaging network will convert to a new use later. Kodak plans to leave the system in place for three months to show potential buyers how it works.
Reform school.With healthcare reform guaranteed to remain a hot topic of national debate, two Boston-area schools have launched a joint master's degree program to help the medical industry get its message across to the public.
The degree in health communication, to be offered by Tufts University and Emerson College, is meant to help physicians make their points effectively and reporters understand them.
"I don't think a day goes by that we pick up a major newspaper and see how information is not being conveyed effectively," said Scott C. Ratzan, M.D., an assistant professor of communications studies at Emerson.
"Communication is inadequate even between health professionals, never mind between health professionals and the public," said Tufts President John DiBiaggio. "The health reform issue is one that has to be carefully interpreted. I don't think anybody fully understands it."
Participants in the Tufts-Emerson program will be required to take courses in marketing and political communication, media, policy, public relations, advertising and ethics in classes populated equally by medical students and communications majors.-Associated Press