Margaret O'Kane, 49, president of the National Committee for Quality Assurance, told executives at the recent National Managed Health Care Congress she hopes the industry can develop healthcare measurement standards "we can all feel good about before I (am eligible for) the Medicare program."
But with several organizations developing measurements, "what we're creating right now is a Tower of Babel," O'Kane said.
Executives of two other organizations involved in developing standards were on the panel with O'Kane: Dennis S. O'Leary, M.D., president of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, and David Lansky, president of the Foundation for Accountability. Still, she spoke candidly: "Too many measures could collapse the whole movement. We need to work together to rationalize our agenda and move it forward."
Although it cost $2.5 million to develop the NCQA's Health Plan Employer Data and Information Set 3.0 measurement tool, there are gaps in the data because of our "failure to sit down together," she said.
Now, there's "no common information to inform choice," she said. Standard-setting bodies are "not able to transform data into information for consumers. We need a coherent national strategy" requiring accountability for all forms of healthcare delivery. HMOs, the only plans currently being measured, account for just 25% of the system, she said.
O'Leary responded, "If there was an olive branch in that bramble bush, I'd gladly accept (the invitation) to collaboration." He warned, however, "We need to embrace standardization but not rigidity."
Hush money?Columbia Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas is revising its compensation plan to include a 1% merit raise for employees based on a customer service performance assessment filled out by the supervisor.
Besides the usual items for telephone etiquette, problem-solving and cooperation, employees can be cited for this attribute: "Refrains from discussing personal issues or frustrations with work-related issues in public areas."
To which we might ask, are such venues as television, radio, newspapers and a concerted public relations campaign "public areas"?
If so, local members of the Service Employees International Union are in trouble. The union has made the hospital its national poster child for organizing. Now, it smells a rat. "Performance assessment hush money," union officials call the 1% raises.
"This is nothing more than an attempt to buy workers' silence," says Melanie Sisson, a Sunrise registered nurse. "But let me tell you, 1% of my wages is worth far less than my nursing license." Sunrise nurses say quality of care has declined so much they fear losing their licenses.
Sunrise employees decided to turn the tables. They graded management based on the new form. Not surprisingly, management flunked.
PPM$.Physicians and consumer advocates have long accused HMO executives of receiving excessive compensation at the expense of patient care. Perhaps they should examine pay packages in the fast-growing physician practice management industry.
Case in point: Larry House, president, chairman and chief executive officer at Birmingham, Ala.-based MedPartners, received $2.5 million in 1996, more than doubling his 1995 income. House received a $717,852 salary and a $1.8 million bonus, plus options to buy 2.7 million shares of stock. He also signed a five-year contract that guarantees a $935,700 salary plus an annual incentive bonus of up to $776,700.
House earned more last year than head honchos at several major HMOs, including Humana, Oxford Health Plans, United HealthCare Corp. and WellPoint Health Networks.
House also out-earned Richard Scott, Columbia/HCA HealthCare Corp.'s chairman and CEO, who made $900,000 plus a bonus of $960,000 in restricted stock awards.
If you build it, they will talk.Despite the hospital building boom in Las Vegas, one of the most-talked about construction projects among local healthcare executives is the home of Anthony M. Marlon, M.D.
Marlon, chairman and chief executive officer of Sierra Health Services, is building one of glitter gulch's most costly residences in Summerlin, a squeaky-clean suburb a dozen miles northwest of the Vegas strip that seems to have sprouted overnight. That is, all except for Marlon's house, which sources say has been under construction for two years.
The manse, said to be at least 10,000 square feet, looms over the second fairway at The Players Course, where Tiger Woods won his first pro tournament last year. Marlon was said to have budgeted $7 million for the house, but costs are said to have now exceeded $10 million.
The house is reportedly so large that golfers at TPC use it as a landmark for navigating the course.
Sierra spokeswoman Ria Carlson acknowledges that Marlon's house is under construction, but declines further comment. "I don't know enough about (the project) to make any statements," she says.
Yet despite the scale of Marlon's home construction, it apparently is dwarfed by the home of yet another of the city's big wheels: Steve Wynn. The casino magnate built his own golf course to accommodate his home.
Setting 'em straight.In recent years, the home-care industry has come under increasing media and government scrutiny as stories of Medicare fraud and patient abuse have surfaced.
For its members who need help in dealing with the onslaught of attention from reporters, the National Association for Home Care has prepared a media action kit called "Setting the Record Straight: An Industry Response to Fraud and Abuse."
Among other tips, the kit recommends that when selecting a patient to be interviewed, the home-care administrator choose one "who is highly supportive of home care (or hospice) and your agency." When being interviewed, administrators should "maintain your enthusiasm. It sells the message as being important." And, lest they forget, "Tell the truth. Don't mislead, stonewall or lie."
If the reporter gets it wrong or misinterprets the situation, respond to the controversial story with a letter to the editor, the kit advises. "Develop your responses in a constructive, factual tone, without appearing hostile or demanding," the kit reads. "Avoid over-responding or getting defensive." Amen.