Just when you think things might be getting better, in walks a futurist like David Zach to set you straight.
Zach, of Milwaukee, foretold the wonders of technology--and warned of its pitfalls--as the keynote speaker at a medical informatics show April 18 in Chicago.
How about a toothbrush that not only fights cavities but finds them? Or a diagnostic toilet?
The question, he says, is not whether it can be done (the smart toilet is already here), but whether it should be--and it if is, will it make life any better? For Zach, the jury is out.
"The power to do good is the power to do evil," he says.
For example, Andy Warhol sardonically postulated that in the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes. But Warhol was wrong, says Zach: "Because of all the technology, in the future, you're going to have 15 minutes of privacy."
Who here uses a laptop, a wireless phone and has access to a fax machine at work? Zach asked. Most in the audience of about 500 doctors raised their hands . . . until he said that people who use those three tech tools work eight more hours a week than those who don't.
"Does the word 'duh' mean anything to you?" he asked.
Breaking the news. As Modern Physician reported last month, Cigna Corp. recently settled one of the first lawsuits brought under a 1997 Texas law that permits patients to sue HMOs for negligence.
Only thing is, Cigna President and CEO Edward Hanway didn't hear about the settlement until a reporter brought it to his attention on March 28 at an investors' conference in Las Vegas.
That was five weeks after the ink dried on the deal.
No wonder the managed care giant's corporate communications people won't comment to the media regarding the settlement.
Spy master. The 1,500 pages of Health Insurance Privacy and Accountability Act privacy regulations can hardly qualify as light reading. So leave it to actress Suzanne Somers to inform the masses.
The National Enquirer, that bastion of journalistic integrity, recently published a photo of Somers exiting a Beverly Hills, Calif., plastic surgery clinic and said she was there for $12,000 worth of liposuction. Somers, queen of the Thighmaster television infomercials, was outraged, according to the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer.
Spinning the story like only a celebrity can, Somers said on CNN's "Larry King Live" that she was at the clinic for reasons related to her battle with breast cancer. She blamed the clinic's staff for the tabloid's report: "Somebody in there was feeding (the Enquirer) information," she told the suspender-clad veteran of talk TV.
Too bad the HIPAA regulations won't take effect for two more years, or she might have had a lawsuit.
Naturally, the clinic refused to comment to the Observer. Something about patient confidentiality, no doubt.
Who are you? Call it an identity crisis. Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield officials in early January announced that its new corporate name was Empire HealthChoice Inc. But, company officials say, the name change didn't alter the company's status as an independent licensee of the BlueCross BlueShield Association.
It seems, however, that the name change confused people, especially when there wasn't room to print the company's cross and shield logos on pretty much anything other than company letterhead. So in mid-April, company officials got approval from the state government to return to using the name Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
Confused? Get in line.
Ready referrals. Talk about creating your own source of business. UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, N.C., recently closed one of its hospital cafeterias and replaced it with a Wendy's franchise.
Hospital officials told National Public Radio surveys showed employees and patients (now referred to as "customers") wanted the change. They also say some cancer patients are eating more now that relatives can make a quick run for a burger and fries instead of the, er, usual hospital food. Hospital execs say they chose Wendy's over other chains because its menu contains more healthful foods, such as baked potatoes and chili.
Some of the staff, including a transplant researcher, found the switch unpalatable.
"You eat this stuff, you're going to need a transplant," he told NPR.
Some of his colleagues seem less concerned: surgeons and physicians want their own designated express line at Wendy's. The good news is that they're likely to get professional discounts when they need their first cardiac cath.