Raymond Scott, president and chief executive officer of a tongue twister called Axolotl Corp., yanked back the curtain that hides the inner workings of many healthcare information systems companies and confirmed the fears gnawing at hospital executives everywhere.
Typically, these companies follow a simple business model, Scott told a packed room of investors and a few competitors at an ING Baring Furman Selz conference on healthcare and the Internet last month in New York. First, Scott said, you build a demonstration project just in time to show at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society's annual meeting. Next, you sell the thing to an "unsuspecting hospital CIO." Then comes the fun part: You "take two years to implement" the solution, a technical euphemism for building what you sold before it existed. Finally, you deliver whatever you built and deal with the consequences.
Sound familiar? If it does, you're not alone. The audience chuckled knowingly during Scott's how-to lesson. Scott hastened to add that Axolotl, which has built software for physician practices in central California, tests its systems before putting them to work.
Seeing is bequeathing.
It literally pays to treat patients well, as the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore learned recently.
Karl Hagen, an 89-year-old resident of Suitland, Md., who died this month, bequeathed his family's 30-acre farm to Wilmer. The farm is worth an estimated $1 million, the Washington Post reported.
And it wasn't the first gift to Hopkins. Several years before his death, Hagen had arranged for a $1 million charitable trust at Johns Hopkins, which established the Karl H. Hagen professorship in ophthalmology. The value of the farm will also go to the professorship.
Hagen was a maintenance worker for 36 years, but careful saving and investing enabled him to save the money used for the professorship. He had received treatment at Wilmer for macular degeneration, a condition that was impeding his vision.
A day in anemia.
Sure, healthcare can be a grueling profession. But 50 clinicians at Detroit Medical Center's Barbara Karmanos Cancer Institute had a particularly arduous day last week, when they experienced a virtual-reality simulation of the debilitating fatigue endured by cancer patients following chemotherapy.
Karmanos staff attempted to maneuver through a simulated house only to find that no matter how much effort they expended, tasks such as making toast and answering the phone seemed to take an eternity.
Exhaustion in cancer patients is under-recognized and undertreated despite being the No. 1. cancer side effect and potentially jeopardizing patients' careers and personal lives, according to the Fatigue Coalition, a group of practitioners, researchers and patient advocates.
The traveling display, called In My Steps, was developed and funded by Raritan, N.J.-based Ortho Bio Tech, which makes a drug that arrests anemia, the cause of fatigue in cancer patients.
Two Missouri state lawmakers are using the theme of patient protection to try to help a company in their district sell its hospital gowns.
The pair hope to require the state's hospitals to offer "dignity gowns" that don't gap in the back, which often leads to what they called the "breezy behind" syndrome.
Republican Reps. Sam Gaskill of Washburn, Mo., and Dan Hegeman of Cosby, Mo., recently modeled the gowns in the state capitol rotunda, but they were fully dressed underneath.
The gowns snap up the sides and shoulders instead of relying on a drawstring to pull the fabric across the backside. "It does cover your heinie, sparing embarrassment," says Hegeman.
The Missouri Hospital Association has said that it hasn't received a huge number of complaints about gaping gowns and that most hospitals are amenable to allowing other attire if the nature of the condition allows it.
Watch that keyboard.
Sticky-fingered computer thieves are getting bolder than ever at University of California San Francisco Medical Center.
Already this year, UCSF officials told employees in an internal newsletter, campus police have received reports of 20 computer thefts -- including 15 in February alone with an estimated value of $50,000.
In 1998, in contrast, just 30 computers were snatched, according to campus police.
Not surprisingly, laptops are a favorite target. Officials don't have a solution, but they warn users to take simple steps to safeguard their machines. Among them are to lock up the computers, conduct regular inventories, report thefts immediately, keep keys in a secure location and back up critical files regularly.
Mergers' hidden costs.
Hospital consolidations are quietly but potently driving up insurance premiums in some small to mid-sized communities, according to Patrick Hays, president and chief executive officer of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.
Hays said insurers are already seeing the costly effects of hospital mergers and joint ventures that occurred in recent years. The Blues chief said he was concerned that federal antitrust authorities aren't taking a close enough look at these "de facto monopolies."
No more flop sweat.
Surgeons at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore are using a new procedure to mop up an embarrassing problem that dampens more than the spirits of 200,000 Americans: excessive sweating.
The minimally invasive surgery uses one small incision on each side of the chest to cut a nerve and correct the problem, called hyperhydrosis.
Patients treated typically have a 24-hour hospital stay and can return to work in a week, the hospital says. UMMC treats about 50 patients a year for excessive sweating.