Organizers of panel discussions at healthcare conferences always seem to take great pains to choose panelists who can reflect all sides of an issue. But during a panel discussion at the Harvard School of Public Health's recent conference on strategic alliances, it was surprising nobody was wounded in the crossfire of debate over the "corporate practice of medicine."
The event, later dubbed "the shootout at the OK Corral," featured not-for-profit hospital executives with lawyers, regulators and consumer advocates, along with Malik Hasan, M.D., chairman, president and chief executive officer of for-profit HMO company Health Systems International, based in Woodland Hills, Calif.
The fireworks started when Michael Collins, president and CEO of Caritas Christi Health Care System, Boston, deflected a question about whether his job isn't just "buy, sell, buy." Turning to Hasan, Collins said, "He's the guy who's `buy, sell, buy."'
However, that paled in comparison to the exchange between Hasan and Steffie Woolhandler, M.D., a Harvard Medical School associate professor and an advocate of a single-payer healthcare system. Woolhandler described herself as someone "trying to put Mr. Hasan and some of the rest of you out of business."
Hasan shot back, "I'm shaking in my boots."
It was all downhill after that.
Some companies slap their name on everything they own, most notably Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp., which recently announced a major branding campaign.
But Primary Health Systems, a Wayne, Pa.-based hospital company, has a different approach.
The PHS name is conspicuously absent from an ad campaign for its new five-hospital network in Cleveland. Nor do the ads indicate the hospitals, which had been independent not-for-profit institutions, are now owned by a for-profit company.
In fact, PHS is marketing its Cleveland network under the moniker of the reputable Mount Sinai Health Care System, which it purchased April 20 (April 29, p. 17).
A spokeswoman said the ads are meant to show "that the Mount Sinai system has expanded."
PHS President Steve Volla explained the ownership change another way. "Probably," he said, "`There's a new capital partner' is the best way to describe it."
Volla said PHS doesn't intend to use its name in any market because healthcare is a local issue.
"I don't think anyone cares if you're a national company. If anything, it has more of a negative connotation."
Interest has been high in Florida's Hospital Report Card, a somewhat controversial consumer guide that rates the state's 202 hospitals on mortality rates, prices and lengths of stay.
More than 862 copies of the document have been sold, and 109 of the purchasers have come from out of state, said a spokeswoman for the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, which prepared the report.
At $15 a pop, the report has generated $12,930 in revenues for the agency. But Outliers has a suggestion for people who want to buy the consumer guides at a discount: Call the Seminole County Library in Castleberry, Fla.
The library, which is located just south of Orlando, is offering its guides for 50 cents each. If the guides are sold out by the time you call, don't worry. A librarian told Outliers more can be found.
The AHCA mailed 1,000 free guides to public libraries and other health offices.
It's hard to match members of Congress for their ability to congratulate colleagues by naming things after them. After all, the country is sprinkled with highways and buildings bearing the names of current and former senators and representatives to commemorate their long years of service.
But Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas) recently had a droll commentary on Congress' tendency to self-congratulation. In a hearing on legislation that would name the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Jackson, Miss., after Rep. G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery (D-Miss.), who is sometimes called "Mr. Veteran," Edwards wondered whimsically how one gets to the Montgomery VA hospital.
"Do you have to land at Sonny Montgomery Airport and drive down Sonny Montgomery Drive?" Edwards asked to the laughter of his colleagues on the House VA Committee.
For all you intense hospital addicts who tune into TV's "ER," here's a quiz from the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post: "Test Your ER IQ."
1. You've just gotten a call that a 10-year-old female is three minutes away with blunt trauma to the head from a car accident. Pupils are dilated. Blood pressure 90 over 50. Unresponsive. Doug Ross, M.D., is on break and sulking because his father treated him badly as a child and he can't sustain a relationship for longer than seven minutes. What is the primary rule to remember when dealing with pediatric head trauma?
A: The head holds the brain, so be careful.
B: Order a CBC (complete blood count) and a blood gas, intubate and bag 'er.
C: Check her ABC (airway, breathing and circulation) and protect the cervical spine in case her neck is broken.
D: Page Ross anyway. Because he's so darned good-looking, especially when he's pouting. Besides, his seven minutes of abstinence are up and the child's stunning single mother is in need of comfort.
2. You've got a 45-year-old male six minutes out (for you non-"ER" addicts, that means six minutes away by ambulance). Paramedics say his abdomen is distended and he smells of alcohol. He's also diabetic. What's the first procedure?
A. Get out the paddles and make like Dr. Kildare. It's been days since you've said, "Everyone clear!"
B. Replay the tape of Mark Greene, M.D., confessing he's had sex only with his soon-to-be-ex-wife, have a good laugh, and wait for the drunk to sober up.
C. Test his blood sugar and order an abdominal X-ray.
D. Give him a lecture about good blood-sugar control, then ask him if he wants the bag of leftover Easter candy.
The answers to both are C, according to Gretchen Szafaryn, R.N., director of emergency services, Columbia JFK Medical Center, Atlantis, Fla.