MEDICAL NOTES Have you been asked to find speakers who can talk about best practices at health management organizations (HMOs)? Wouldn't it make sense to look for them at the HMOs with the best practices? UltraLink, a Costa Mesa, Calif.-based provider of health plan management services for large corporations, has released the results of its Sixth Annual HMO Satisfaction Survey, which identifies the "Best of the Best" health plans in eight regions across the nation.

The Consumer Assessment of Health Plans (CAHP) survey was mailed to more than 100,000 households nationwide and generated satisfaction ratings on more than 200 top health plans. The highest overall rated health plan was First Priority Health, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., marking the second consecutive year that First Priority has claimed the top spot in the nation. Among the other top finishers:

* Matthew Thornton Health Plan (Manchester, Pa.)

* Cigna Healthcare of Arizona-Tucson (Tucson, Ariz.)

* HMO Nebraska (Omaha, Neb.)

* Priority Health (Grand Rapids, Mich.)

* Kaiser Foundation Health Plan (Honolulu, Hawaii)

* Partners National Health Plan of North Carolina (Winston-Salem, N.C.)

* Scott and White Health Plan (Temple, Texas)

For more information, visit UltraLink's Web site at www.ultra-link.com.

When patients come to physicians with advice they've found on the Internet: In an article in the October 11, 1999, issue of the American Medical Association's AMNews, physicians discuss strategies for dealing with patients who come to them with information they've found on the Web. Mentioned in the article is Prashant Deshpande, MD, a pediatrician with South- west Pediatrics in Palos Park, Ill.

Deshpande takes the time to check Web sites that patients make reference to, and gets back to them with an opinion on their relative trustworthiness, as well as suggestions for other sites to visit. He might be an interesting speaker on the subject. He can be reached through Southwest Pediatrics at (708) 361-3300.

CRO Followup: Small firms may be in trouble. The June 1999 issue of Medical Meetings explored the world of contract research organizations (CROs). Now, a new survey by the Pharmaceutical Outsourcing Management Association (POMA) and Bio/Pharmaceutical Outsourcing Report (B/POR), an industry newsletter, says that pharmaceutical firms increasingly are turning to the largest CROs to meet their needs--which means that smaller, specialty CROs may be in jeopardy.

POMA is an organization of pharmaceutical professionals devoted to advancing the practice of outsourcing in the pharmaceutical industry. B/POR is an independent publication covering outsourcing by pharmaceutical and bio-technology firms. The survey appears in the October 1999 issue of B/POR.

The results suggest that pharmaceutical firms will be outsourcing only their riskiest projects to CROs while keeping the most promising ones in-house, industry expert Jim Kirwin tells B/POR. If so, this means CROs are more exposed than ever to both the vagaries of the development process and their clients' management of their own finances. "CROs may be losing some control over their own destinies,' says B/POR publisher Jim Miller.

For more information on POMA, call Nanette Nanjo-Jones, (650) 562-1818. For more information on B/POR or to obtain a copy of the October 1999 issue, call Jim Miller, (703) 323-4971.

NOTABLE MEETINGS The American Association of Managed Care Nurses (AAMCN), held its first-ever annual conference on October 28 and 29, in Atlanta, Ga. Titled "Managed Care Nursing: Building the Bridge to the 21st Century," its goal was to help nurses strengthen their positions as patient advocates, care managers, and proactive leaders in the managed health care industry. AAMCN was established in 1994 to educate nurses about managed care. Its membership totals more than 2,000 health care professionals nationwide.