Perhaps in an effort to take advantage of our holiday cheer, the American League of Lobbyists, the lobbyists' lobby, last week sent Outliers and others an open letter asking for kinder treatment.
Objecting to "slanderous" characterization from "self-serving politicians and reporters" as election 2000 draws near, league President Kenneth Feltman extolled the virtues of the organization's 500 members.
"I have had enough of the misinformation and attacks on my profession," Feltman harrumphed.
"Without knowing it, average American citizens rely on scores of lobbyists who are working on their behalf," he said. "Members of the league see themselves as playing a key role in the convoluted process of making public policy. Those who run for public office have to find out about their constituents-who they are and what they need. The reality is that what we do is a very essential part of the process."
He didn't mention, but we will, the tilting of elections with the infusion of lobbyists' campaign cash, the open access to lawmakers given to the big campaign donors, and the taking from taxpayers' pockets to fund last-minute pork thrown into budget bills.
Uncompensated services. As another sign of the times for medical societies, the Orange County (Fla.) Medical Society is asking the Florida Medical Association for an extension in paying its 1999 dues.
The reason? Orlando-area doctors chafed at paying nearly $800 annually for membership in both the county and state medical societies, according to the Orlando Business Journal.
The 900-member county medical group, which lost 50% of its membership in the past two years, folded its glossy color magazine and sold its building to cut costs. The FMA has put the Orange County society on a payment plan and tagged on an 8% late fee charge but will monitor the society's finances. And doctors thought managed-care plans kept a tight leash.
Talking tongues. A subsidiary of the Healthcare Association of New York State has joined forces with a Tucson, Ariz., company to help hospitals communicate better with patients who don't speak English.
CyraCom International, through HANYS Services, will offer hospitals the DiaLingual Service, which provides interpreters for more than 150 languages. The bonus is that the interpreters are familiar with healthcare terminology and procedures.
"Because New York is not only home to hundreds of thousands of immigrants but also a Mecca for international tourism, hospitals here daily face the challenge of speaking in many different, and sometimes uncommon, tongues," says Chris Wilkes, vice president of HANYS Services.
Depending on the level of use, the service could cost hospitals from less than $100 per month to as much as $5,000 per month, a HANYS spokesman says.
Like father, like son. A new Internet healthcare technology company has brought a father-son combination with a long healthcare pedigree into the spotlight.
David Loucks, 33, is president and chief executive officer of InLight Technologies, a start-up patient-education technology company. His father, Vernon Loucks, 65, who recently retired as Baxter International's chairman after a long tenure with the company, is the founder and chairman of the InLight board.
The Evanston, Ill.-based company features PatientPage.com, which allows patients and their families to access a personal Web page that features understandable clinical information, a health library, chat rooms and other services specific to the patient's condition and prescribed care.
Through a program called Millennium Partners, InLight has signed deals with 10 major medical centers across the country to provide the proprietary medical information.
InLight also recently partnered with Rosemont, Ill.-based Comdisco, which will support InLight's clinical applications with local-area and wide-area network installation and management, system integration and hardware. As part of the deal, Comdisco made an undisclosed equity investment in InLight.
David Loucks is familiar with such transactions. He previously served as vice president of Robertson Stephens & Co., a San Francisco-based investment bank that has done many healthcare deals.
No balloons, please! Visitors trying to deliver latex balloons to patients at Mercy Medical Center in Clinton, Iowa, don't get inside with them. They must leave the balloons with a volunteer greeter or take them back to their cars.
The hospital has imposed an outright ban on latex balloons to protect patients, employees and staff from potential health problems caused by latex allergies.
"We haven't done this because we want to be mean," says Gina Schwartz, employee health coordinator at Mercy. "We're doing this for safety."
The hospital gift shop also has stopped selling latex balloons but does offer Mylar balloons, which do not cause allergy problems, Schwartz says.
Hospital workers have seen an increase in the incidence of latex allergies because latex rubber gloves are being used so much to avoid contact with blood-borne diseases, particularly HIV and hepatitis B, she says.
High honor. Deborah Hoyt, 41, vice president of public affairs at the Connecticut Hospital Association, has been named Mrs. Connecticut 2000 and will represent her state in the Mrs. International Pageant in Sevierville, Tenn., next summer.
Mrs. International is the premier pageant for married women ages 23 to 56, promoting women's professional accomplishments and commitment to family, marriage and community service.
Hoyt, 41, will make herself available to civic and community groups, speaking on community health issues.