The battle between not-for-profit and for-profit hospitals may rage in boardrooms and statehouses, but the public often doesn't really understand or care.
Children's Medical Center of Dallas is trying to change that by heightening consumer awareness with a new multimedia campaign that may be one of the most aggressive by a tax-exempt hospital.
In Dallas, Children's chief competition is Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp., whose Medical City Dallas vies for pediatric patients.
Children's has torn a page from Columbia's playbook in which Chief Executive Officer Richard Scott was featured about a year ago in the company's TV advertisements. This month, Children's CEO George Farr appears in an ad that shows a penny rolling down a hallway. Farr picks it up and hands it to a little girl.
"Every spare penny we have goes right back to helping our patients...the kids," the TV and radio ads declare. The announcer contrasts that fiscal strategy with investor-owned hospitals, which he claims take profits out of the community.
However, the bottom line in the ad campaign may have less to do with operational profits than philanthropic dollars. Children's marketing director Stacy Wehr said hospital studies showed that about half of consumers think Children's is a "for-profit" hospital, making executives fear that such a perception might hurt donations.
Wehr added that consumers don't realize how Children's spends its charity dollars. "We've paid electric bills for families whose kids are on kidney dialysis. We pay for bus and cab fares; sometimes we pay to put phones in people's homes," she explained.
Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. has lined up for three luxury skyboxes in the new $180 million football stadium planned by Nashville, Tenn., to house the relocating Houston Oilers.
With the stadium set to open in 1998, corporations are reserving their suites now, and Columbia is the single largest buyer of those suites, according to the Nashville Banner.
However, the Banner reports that such an expense has caused tension among many Columbia employees who believe the cost of those suites will come out of hospital budgets.
In a memo obtained by the Banner, David White, president of Columbia's Mid-America group, assuaged those fears, saying the cost of the suites would come out of the corporate budget, not from hospitals. The memo also said only two of the suites would be paid for by the company, and they would be used for business entertaining. The third would be used by the company's top executives "at no expense to Columbia," the Banner reported.
The suites lease for $375,000, or $3.75 million over the 10-year commitment.
But the investor-owned chain isn't the only healthcare provider leasing the luxury boxes. Tax-exempt Baptist Hospital, Nashville's largest hospital, has committed to a $75,000 suite, the Banner reported.
Horror stories about HMOs, familiar in the media, soon could become a hot topic in cyberspace as well. The Coalition for Health Care Choice and Accountability, a group of more than 50 national healthcare consumer and provider organizations, has launched "Project Sound Off," which the coalition describes as "a nationwide effort to document managed-care horror stories via the Internet."
To that end, the group has established a home page on the World Wide Web (http: 18.104.22.168/
FairManagedCare). The group's goal is to collect information on "poor care provided by managed-care health plans" and misleading marketing practices in order to support legislation to curb such abuses. The coalition supports legislation pending in the House-the Family Health Care Fairness Act-and has called on Congress to hold hearings into consumer problems with managed-care plans. The group is urging "rationally developed national standards" for plans.
Meanwhile, HMO executives and private and public purchasers concede the power of horror stories-however exaggerated or taken out of context-to spark legislative action. Those who believe, like one HCFA official, that "managed care is the best hope we have to deliver high-quality, affordable healthcare," hope any legislation that passes will not hamstring health plans.
Eleven emergency room workers and the cast of NBC's "ER" will be honored with the American Red Cross' Spirit Award at a fund-raiser March 30 in Santa Monica, Calif.
The nine nurses and two physicians were chosen by their peers through contests at eight Los Angeles hospitals "as extraordinary representatives of the Spirit Award ideal of outstanding concern for humanity," said the Santa Monica chapter of the Red Cross.
Explaining the presence of the TV actors, Sherry Reynolds, director of development at the Santa Monica chapter, said, "The cast and creative staff of `ER' do an excellent job raising awareness about the incredibly important contribution of these real-life heroes of emergency rooms in hospitals all over the world. It seems completely natural to honor (the providers and actors) together as they meet face to face."
Celebrants also will dine, dance and be entertained by other TV stars at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel.
Outliers goofed last week when it said Margaret Sabin was laid off by HealthOne. The Denver-based health system (now part of a joint venture with Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp.) consolidated its hospital administrator positions in 1995. Sabin was offered another executive spot, but she opted to launch a consulting firm in California instead. "It was totally up to Margaret," said Nick Hilger, former HealthOne chief, now head of Columbia's Chicago operations.