Free consulting. More than $200,000 worth. For community healthcare service projects.
If that sounds like one of those gimmicky cable TV ads for ginsu knives, it isn't. It's for real, and it comes through the auspices of the American Association of Healthcare Consultants.
To celebrate its 50th anniversary, the association is sponsoring a program through which its member firms will provide their expertise without any fees to at least three organizations with worthy undertakings.
To date, AAHC member firms have committed 1,200 hours of consultant time to the projects, to be selected from provider nominations.
To be eligible for the free advice, a healthcare organization must be not-for-profit or have a significant not-for-profit component; have its operations be controlled by the local community; and be committed to serving the community, including the uninsured and indigent.
Examples of worthy projects include establishing a free clinic or high-risk obstetrics program in an inner-city neighborhood, or expanding a free cancer screening service.
Proposals for the projects must be delivered to the AAHC by Feb. 15; accepted projects will be announced by March 15. For further details, call Vaughan Smith, president and chief executive officer of the association, at 703-691-2242.
Giving their all. They say politics is a blood sport, but now politicians are making a sport of giving blood.
Although Outliers questions whether politicians actually bleed if you cut them, Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill last week began squaring off in a battle to see who could give the most blood during January. The event is being sponsored by a coalition of the American Association of Blood Banks, the American Red Cross and America's Blood Centers.
Among members of Congress, Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), who was wounded in the Vietnam War, and Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), a transplant surgeon, are the leading donors. The aim is to highlight the need for blood donations at a time of year when the blood supply is critically low.
The heaviest pitch for blood will come Jan. 20 to Jan. 22, when the coalition will send faxes to congressional offices to tell them how the competition is going.
The first member of Congress to give blood was Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas).
No word yet on how many bled blue, although we guess Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) is a leading candidate.
No Mercy mission. If you can't get satisfaction from the courts, try the World Wide Web. That's where Martin McKeon has turned since his wife, June, lost her employment discrimination case against Mercy Hospitals Sacramento in California.
The McKeons have established a Web site whose only purpose is to trash Mercy, a division of Catholic Healthcare West.
In an e-mail sent out to make people aware of his site, McKeon wrote: "See for yourself how corruption and abuse of religion threaten the sincere beliefs, rights and freedoms we all value."
Mercy earned the McKeons' ire by prevailing in a racial-discrimination lawsuit that June McKeon filed against the system. She alleged that she was passed over for promotion because she is black. Mercy argued that the state statute forbidding such discrimination did not apply to religious organizations. On Nov. 9 the California Supreme Court sided with the hospital (Nov. 23, 1998, p. 16).
McKeon's bare-bones Web site (www.mercysacto.com) asserts it wants to "eliminate intolerance and discrimination at CHW Mercy." It contains various scurrilous headlines and mock news stories detailing Mercy's alleged abuses.
"We have no intention of taking any kind of action against Mr. McKeon on the basis of his site," says Cindy Holst, spokeswoman for Mercy Sacramento. Mercy doesn't like the content, but respects the right of free speech, she adds.
Police referrals. A New Jersey hospital system has enlisted the local cops in a novel approach to nabbing referrals for its geriatric healthcare program.
The Senior Health Network of the Livingston-based Saint Barnabas Health Care System launched a program last fall to train Ocean County police officers to spot and refer possible dementia cases to the network.
Some 130 officers have taken part in the two-hour training session to learn how to evaluate common signs of dementia, such as confusion, memory loss and impaired judgment, in routine traffic stops and on other police calls.
"Police offers are often involved in motor vehicle stops that on the surface may look like instances of careless driving when in fact, there is an underlying, treatable medical condition," says Anne Mastro, the Senior Health Network nurse who piloted the program.
A Stark idea. No warm New Year's wishes for HMO executives from Rep. Fortney "Pete" Stark, (D-Calif.), senior Democrat on the House Ways and Means health subcommittee and constant thorn in the side of for-profit medicine.
As the battle over patient-protection legislation is likely to heat up this year, Stark wants to adopt an idea first tried by the French in the 1600s, when their healthcare system had similar incentives to undertreat patients.
Stark says hospitals at that time were run by contractors who would treat patients at a fixed rate, a financial arrangement similar to today's capitation payments.
Upon hearing of one Alsatian contractor's abuse of that payment system, the French war secretary ordered him to be led through every hospital ward in the province by a common hangman, wearing a sandwich board saying "public rogue." The contractor then was banished for life, according to the book.
"That might catch the attention of some HMO chief executives, and it would be a lot quicker than malpractice lawsuits," Stark says.