HCFA is no stranger to using coercion to get its work done, and fixing what has become known as the Year 2000 Problem is no exception.
Unless you've been trapped in a cave, you know that unless some complex and expensive changes are made to computer software, the turnover to the year 2000 poses a threat of data catastrophe to systems nationwide.
HCFA Administrator Nancy-Ann Min DeParle is concerned that Medicare's independent contractors, which process Medicare claims, are not doing enough to ensure a smooth transition. To make her point, DeParle is threatening that if the contractors can't prove they are ready for the change, they can't bid on new HCFA business.
DeParle says after meeting with the contractors recently she was "not satisfied" that sufficient progress was being made. She had hoped to withhold payment to the contractors for work done as an incentive, but that plan was quashed by HCFA lawyers. So DeParle settled on a moratorium on new business for contractors unable to prove their readiness.
"Its just too great a risk," she says.
For its own part, she says, HCFA is ready for the change, having set up a testing center already.
Energy and the doctor's office. Using a variation on "an ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure," a group of environmentalist-physicians is trying to sell smaller hospitals, physician groups, offices and research laboratories on improved energy efficiency by saying it helps prevent disease.
Less energy consumption, according to the Bethesda, Md.-based National Association of Physicians for the Environment, equals less air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, a respiratory irritant and a component of acid rain, and nitrogen oxide, a component of the smog that leads to the summertime air-quality alerts in many U.S. cities.
The NAPE's Healthcare Energy Efficiency campaign, assisted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is asking healthcare facilities of less than 100,000 square feet to take such steps as purchasing energy-efficient lights, office equipment, and heating and cooling equipment. (Some 850 larger healthcare facilities already are participants in the EPA's Green Lights and Energy Star programs.)
Michael Maves, M.D., the executive vice president of the American Academy of Otolaryngology who chairs the NAPE's healthcare energy efficiency council, touts his academy's Alexandria, Va., office as an energy-efficiency success story.
In addition to preventing 705 pounds of nitrogen oxide and 1,637 pounds of sulfur dioxide from entering the environment each year, the AAO saves $7,300 a year by using less energy.
Psych retreat. As the inpatient psych business continues to head south, the sprawling campuses that once housed the facilities are being put to some novel uses.
Two years ago, Sierra Tucson (Ariz.), an inpatient drug and alcohol treatment hospital, started offering "life in balance" spa vacations at some of its facilities, which are lined with jogging paths and swimming pools.
Now comes news that Hyatt Hotels Corp. is close to reaching a deal with the state of Maryland to purchase Eastern Shore Hospital Center in Cambridge, Md., which treats veterans and psychiatric patients, and convert the 350-acre site into a luxury hotel and waterfront golf community.
The deal reportedly is valued at $5 million. The state has agreed to give Hyatt $2 million in economic development money, and Dorchester County will loan the hotel firm the remaining $3 million.
Hyatt will use its own money to build the $150 million resort, which will include a luxury hotel, 18-hole golf course, marina and 200 to 300 homes.
Officials already have arranged to move the hospitals and offices to another site outside Cambridge.
Help wanted (temporarily). Managed care taketh away, and managed care giveth. A recent story in the Boston Globe said providers of temporary nursing help and health economists were predicting a national nursing shortage.
Among the reasons: early retirement among nurses dissatisfied with changes brought by managed care. On the other hand, temporary nursing agencies said they can't meet the need for their services. "Demand is going through the roof, and it is being driven by managed care," said Bruce Cerullo, president of TravCorps Corp., Malden, Mass., a temporary nurse staffing agency.
New venue for spinmeister. A Nashville public relations executive who helped put his former employer on the map when it comes to healthcare spin-control is going out on his own.
David Jarrard, 35, has left the Nashville-based public relations firm McNeely Pigott & Fox to form his own firm, Jarrard-Ingram Public Relations. Before MPF began to tap the world of anti-Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. sentiment, the firm was largely unknown in healthcare circles. But representing not-for-profit hospitals and unions in their fights against Columbia helped MPF become one of the five fastest-growing public relations firms last year, according to the 1996 O'Dwyers PR Services Report.
Jarrard, who was a partner at MPF, hopes to do the same at Jarrard-Ingram, which is affiliated with the Ingram Group, a political and corporate consulting firm in Nashville. Like MPF, the Ingram Group is known mostly in its political strategy circles.
Despite Columbia slowing down, Jarrard believes hospitals and other healthcare organizations still will find the need for his brand of PR. "The combination of aggressive public relations and political savvy is a mixture just right for many hospitals and healthcare organizations today," Jarrard says. Jarrard says his new venture also will cater to community-based not-for-profit hospitals and their expanding healthcare ventures.