Somewhere are more than 70 former patients who made their contribution to the advancement of medical science nearly 10 years ago but don't know it . . . yet.
The University of Missouri-Columbia is being ordered to contact a group of former heart patients who served as human research subjects at one of the University of Missouri Health Care hospitals without being asked in the early 1990s.
The federal Office of Human Research Protection, a division of HHS, said last month that the university has to tell the unwitting former open-heart surgery patients that they were part of a study by Jack Curtis, M.D. Findings from the study on continuous warm blood cardioplegia--a technique for slowing down the heart to enable open-heart surgery--ended up in an article in the International Journal of Angioplasty in 1996.
The OHRP twice urged the hospital administration to tell patients of their participation in the study, but MU provost Brady Deaton failed to do so. According to the Columbia Tribune, MU Vice Provost for Research Jack Burns said in a written statement that the university would cooperate fully with the OHRP and try to meet all its requests, including developing a plan for contacting former patients or their families by Jan. 12.
Achilles' what? Leave it to one nit-picking physician--an orthopedic specialist, no doubt--to question the proper, precise use of one of the world's oldest, most familiar and oft-used cliches. During the American Medical Association's interim meeting in Orlando, Fla., last week, delegates were debating a resolution to restrict work hours for residents. One physician-delegate rose to support a plan to sanction hospitals that don't strictly follow nationally established guidelines, describing how one authoritative medical magazine recently warned that tired, overworked doctors could be the Achilles' heel for hospitals. A fellow doctor, shaking her head at what she thought was an incorrect reference, turned to a friend in the back of the conference hall and muttered, "If he keeps using that analogy, you've got to tell him it's Achilles' tendon."
Hollywood meets healthcare. Hospital officials are hoping the combination of a dramatic plot and a well-known Hollywood cast will boost local support for the sale of a financially strapped hospital in Sharon, Conn., to keep the facility open. Kevin Bacon, his wife, Kyra Sedgwick, and Meryl Streep were the most notable names on the marquee of a recent press conference in Sharon. The three were plugging a previously announced deal to sell 57-bed Sharon Hospital to a Nashville-based for-profit firm. All live in the area and offered personal testimonials about the hospital's importance to the community. Backed by a group of community activists, the Hollywood stars suggested the hospital's fate lies in the hands of Essent Healthcare, a Nashville-based start-up company that is trying to buy the facility and pay off its $16 million debt.
"Obviously, there's notoriety that comes from people like that," says W. Hudson Connery Jr., founder, president and chief executive officer of Essent, who was on hand mingling with the stars. Streep said her four children have used the hospital on several occasions. Connery informed Outliers that Liam Neeson, yet another well-known area resident, could not be on hand but sent a supportive letter discussing his treatment at Sharon after a motorcycle accident. If the deal goes through, Sharon Hospital would become Connecticut's first for-profit hospital. State officials still must clear the deal. Get out the popcorn for a possible sequel.
You've got mail. First Health Group Corp., a Downers Grove, Ill.-based managed-care company, has adopted a unique compensation plan that rewards its physicians for using their e-mail: It pays doctors $25 for each e-mail consultation with patients.
Many patients already consult the Internet in researching medical issues, the health plan says, and the new payment is intended to encourage physicians to make the Web a part of their practice.
"Patients with chronic conditions like diabetes or hypertension tend to benefit most from regular physician contact to catch early signs of potentially acute episodes. Online communication is an effective way for (them) to communicate with their physicians to catch these warning signs," says Scott Smith, M.D., First Health's national medical director.
"We've found that patients often ask more questions and explain their problems more clearly in a well-thought-out e-mail than in what can often be a hurried phone call to the doctor's office or a face-to-face consultation."
First Health says it hopes the plan will cut down on patients' visits to emergency rooms, which will bring down costs.
Oops, our apologies. After being told in June that they would need to find a new HMO next year, 4,470 members of Humana's Medicare Gold Plus plan in Florida may have been surprised to receive renewal packages from the health plan last month. Unfortunately for them, the packages were a mistake.
Humana announced in June that it would scrap its Medicare HMO in Florida's Clay and St. Johns counties and 43 other counties in six states on Jan. 1, saying cutbacks in government Medicare reimbursements were causing it to lose money in those areas.
But as the Louisville, Ky.-based health plan mailed renewal notices to about a half-million remaining Medicare HMO members around the country, it mistakenly mailed the packages to its existing members in Clay and St. Johns counties. Despite getting the packages, those members aren't eligible for renewal.
"We'd like to apologize for any confusion it's caused our members," says Humana spokeswoman Pamela Gadinsky. "There will be a communication going out to our members in Clay and St. Johns who received those annual notification packages acknowledging our error and apologizing to our members."