Your tokus is no longer necessary for surfing the Internet.
Pleasanton, Calif.-based 24 Hour Fitness, which bills itself as the largest privately owned fitness chain, announced it has contracted with Netpulse Communications to install Internet stations on its exercise machines.
Netpulse's stations allow runners and stair-steppers to surf the Internet as well as watch television, listen to compact discs and read electronic mail as they exercise. Oh, and they also can track their workouts.
But with no keyboard, they'll still have to do their chatting in person.
In politics, there was Anonymous. In medicine, there is Austin, Texas-based Ben Dover, M.D., the nom de guerre of a 45-year-old primary-care doctor with an Internet site dedicated to exposing how the insurance industry takes advantage of doctors in an attempt to ring up big profits.
It's easy to imagine the inspiration for his name, but his site is more than just a pun -- it's a call for doctors to speak out, like Dover did when he dropped out of Medicare and posted reimbursement tables to let patients know what he's paid to treat them.
Though Dover wasn't willing to reveal his name to Modern Physician, he did agree to answer other questions in an e-mail interview.
Q. How have insurance companies responded to your site (home.earthlink.net/austintxmd/Pages/intro.html)?
A. I have heard nothing whatsoever from the insurance companies, but I know for sure that several of them track this web site daily. They've probably figured out that if they send me threatening e-mail, I'll post it immediately for the world to read. One insurance rep (who had no idea he was talking to Ben Dover) told me that their medical director prints out "The Latest Bad News" -- one section on the site -- frequently and circulates copies around the executive offices.
Q. How about the response from doctors?
A. Frankly, although my e-mail box is always full of complimentary notes from doctors, I'm somewhat disappointed that we're only up to 100 hits a day (which actually means fewer than 100 visitors because of how site "hits" are measured).
Q. Are you managed care's worst nightmare?
A. Well, I don't know if I'm causing them nightmares. But I know they're watching this web site closely, and that tells us a lot.
The me-generation goes to the doctor.
The nation's 77 million baby boomers are reaching the so-called golden years, and their consumerism is expected to reshape the healthcare system.
Aging baby boomers are the most demanding and least satisfied segment of the patient population, according to a healthcare satisfaction survey conducted by Press, Ganey Associates, a South Bend, Ind., satisfaction measurement firm. To keep and retain baby-boomer customers, the survey concluded that healthcare providers will have to pay closer attention to satisfying a group it described as "consumer-driven, extremely mobile, distrustful of institutions, and self-centered."
Press, Ganey surveyed more than one million patients, and found that consumers from the GI generation (born before 1930) and the Depression generation (born between 1930 and 1939) are significantly more content with their healthcare than baby boomers are. The survey measured everything from the speed of hospital admissions and quality of food to how much time patients spend with their physicians.
"The authority of doctors and the mystique of medicine have diminished. Today, healthcare providers must prove their skills both on a clinical and interpersonal level to serve the 'younger' generations," the survey concluded.
Trench coats and turned-up collars. Rooting out Medicare fraud and abuse is one of the federal government's top priorities, and now they mean business. New fraud and abuse legislation passed in 1997 gave HCFA the authority and the funding to hire private, special anti-fraud contractors to fight deception. Until now, only insurance companies that process Medicare claims have been able to conduct audits or reviews. HCFA, which has about a half billion dollars to spend in 1998 (the amount will jump to $720 million by 2003), is turning to private contractors, some observers say, because current investigators are swamped.
The special investigators will not be hired for several months, but already legal publications are warning healthcare providers about the new hired guns.
Physicians shouldn't necessarily worry about private detectives casing their offices or digging through garbage cans, but they should be aware that full-time, professional fraud and abuse investigators are on the case, say healthcare attorneys.