Association Notes One more word on medical associations and their relationships with for-profit organizations: In December, the American Medical Association (AMA) declared a moratorium on all corporate arrangements involving the AMA name and logo pending the establishment of rules for how such arrangements are to be made. With so much attention paid to the AMA and its brief fling with commercial endorsements, it's easy to forget that such arrangements are commonplace. For example, the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association (AHA) each endorse products. While ethicists see no problem with the basic idea of endorsing products that further an association's goals (the AHA's "heart-healthy" foods, for example), others are troubled by the trend. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a Washington, DC, lobbying group, objects to associations taking money from private companies in return for endorsements, fearing that the organizations will lose their ability to speak independently on health-related subjects.
The Ohio State Medical Association is lobbying for the passage of a bill by the state legislature to allow people covered by health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and preferred provider organizations (PPOs) to sue these organizations for medical negligence. The Association says it wants HMOs and PPOs to be liable for decisions they make about patient care.
Medical Notes An article on breast cancer screening by Suzanne Fletcher, MD, that appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine has sparked controversy over the setting of public policy in the absence of unambiguous survey results. Responding to a critical letter, she makes a strong case for the importance of disseminating information among physicians on topics of controversy--a primary goal of continuing medical education:
" Individual physicians and patients are faced daily with clinical situations for which scientific evidence provides no clear answers," she says. "The doctor and patient must make a decision despite the uncertainty, taking into account the available scientific evidence and the patient's individual circumstances. That is what clinical medicine is all about." Providing access to "the available scientific evidence" is surely what CME is about.
The birth of a new industry? Phillip B. Douglas, a former executive with Humana Health, Louisville, KY, has opened a firm called MTS, whose goal is to run the business side of physician practices. In a sense, MTS takes over everything but the actual practice of medicine. A physician's employees become employees of MTS. The company handles a practice's purchasing and billing, and looks for ways to reduce practice overhead. It may be a more palatable alternative to the outright sale of a practice to a health maintenance organization.
Notable Meetings The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) will hold its annual conference and exhibition February 22 to 26, 1998, at the Orange County Convention Center, Orlando. HIMSS promises a hands-on glimpse of the future of medical information management, thanks to an unusual collaborator: The Department of Defense/Health Affairs (DoD/HA). A demonstration area hosted by the DoD/HA, which is also sponsoring ten educational sessions, will give attendees the opportunity to experience information systems currently used to improve the quality, timeliness, cost-effectiveness, orderliness, and accessibility of medical care to the military armed forces and beneficiary populations. "The DoD manages one of the largest healthcare systems in the world," says Pamela Barrett, HIMSS Director of Education and Publications. "Attendees can learn from the DoD's accomplishments and gain insight to improve operations in their own facilities."
Within the demonstration area, many projects and systems will be online, giving real-time demonstrations of the functional systems that provide rapid response to the needs of America's peacetime and front-line forces, including the World Wide Web/Internet/
Intranet, electronic data interchange and electronic commerce, video teleconferencing, data warehousing, clinical information systems, and corporate information systems.
HIMSS '98 is cosponsored by the American Health Information Management Association, the Center for Health Information Management, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, the Computer-based Patient Record Institute, the Healthcare Financial Management Association, and the Society for Health Systems. For more information, visit the HIMSS Website at www.himss.org.