Airplane food: You can only call it haute cuisine because it's served at a haute of 35,000 feet. Given its functional nature, the best a traveler can hope for is good nutrition. Alas, that is only selectively true, according to the second annual survey of airline and airport food by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). The PCRM gives top ranking to United Airlines for its cholesterol-free vegetarian steak with just six percent fat. American, TWA, and Northwest also offer cholesterol-free meals. Ranked lowest (it's that Southern heritage showing) is Delta, where the vegetarian ragout is 48 percent fat.

Certainly no one expects to find good food in airports, but could it be possible to find food that isn't on the triple-bypass candidate's diet? Again, PCRM to the rescue. Its survey of 25 major airports indicates that travelers will find the greatest number of low-fat, high-fiber selections at Los Angeles International Airport. Cucumber sushi roll, anyone?

The Managed Care Manual is a new book on managed care written for fellows, residents, and medical students-and for physicians and even conference organizers who wouldn't make it through a spot quiz on capitation. Author David B. Nash, MD, MBA, director of the Office of Health Policy and Clinical Outcomes at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, is well known in the healthcare community as an outspoken advocate of managed care education for medical students and residents. The publisher, TLC Medical Publishing, Boston, is offering a limited-time discounted price of $40.50. To order, or to learn more, call (617) 262-3336.

The Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services publishes a free newsletter, Research Activities, that provides brief reports on topics of interest to physicians-and is a good source of ideas for meeting topics. The AHCPR also offers the source documents for many of the research summaries it prints. To subscribe, call (800) 358-9295.

Go to our "Nifty 50 Web Sites for Meeting Planners." Here are a few healthcare-specific addresses to add to your browser's bookmarks:

* American Medical Association (AMA) (http://www.ama-assn.org/)

The AMA's Online CME Locator provides a quick and convenient way to access information on continuing medical education activities. A large directory of links to other medicine-related Web sites is also on board.

* National Institutes of Health (NIH) (http://www.nih.gov/)

The 800-pound gorilla of medicine (imagine having your budget cuts measured in billions of dollars) has a suitably grand site complete with its own search engine. There is information here on virtually any medical topic, searchable by keyword. This is also a place to look for grant opportunities.

* U.S. National Library of Medicine (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/)

The world's largest biomedical library's Web site includes every significant program of the Library, from medical history to biotechnology. There are also links to MedLine, the Library's biomedical database.

* Achoo Online Healthcare Services (http://www.achoo.com/)

Don't let the consumer-oriented home page fool you: Achoo is a jump point and information resource for the medical community and all other Internet users interested in healthcare information, with links to more than 7,200 sites.

* CapNet Gateway Online Services (http://www.capnet.com/index.htm)

The flashing text and black background look cheesy, but this index of healthcare information resources includes searchable directories for medical device manufacturing companies, world medical conferences and CME courses, and world pharmacy and pharmaceutical companies.

Who says quality improvement and cost control are incompatible in health care? "By re-designing how primary care physicians see patients, Kaiser Permanente in Colorado has achieved some startling results with solid data over the past three years," says Robert Pyatt, MD, FACR, quality chairman of the Pennsylvania Physician Healthcare Plan. "They have shown significant increases in patient satisfaction, increased physician (and office staff) satisfaction, decreased emergency room visits by their patients, increased pharmaceutical compliance, decreased hospital bed days for Medicare patients, and reduced unnecessary office visits." Financial results at the organization also improved.

To learn more about what Kaiser did, and to obtain training materials at cost, call Paula Stearns, RN, MSN, coordinator of the Kaiser Cooperative Healthcare Clinic, at (303) 788-1138. According to Pyatt, Kaiser staff are available to lecture on their experience and even to conduct on-site training.

Don't go looking for rooms in Washington, DC between April 14 and 17. The Renaissance Mayflower, Grand Hyatt Washington, and Marriott Metro Center are all sold out for the Ninth Annual National Managed Health Care Congress (NMHCC), to be held at the Washington Convention Center. Organizers expect about 10,000 healthcare professionals to attend. For the first time, NMHCC will integrate its HealthInfo (information management) and Mirex (radiology) conferences into the main event. Attendees decided that networking was more important to them than separate organizational identities-an unusual impulse in a world where groups are prone to splitting off the main meeting.

When physicians and other healthcare professionals make errors, how do hospitals react? Do they find the guilty and punish them? Or do they find the source of the error and correct it? This was the essential question asked and answered at "Examining Errors in Health Care: Developing a Prevention, Education, and Research Agenda," held last October 13 to 15 at the Annenberg Center for Health Sciences, Rancho Mirage, CA. The multidisciplinary conference drew 300 participants, according to Mark Eppinger, CEO of the Annenberg Center. It was organized by the Center with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Medical Association (AMA), the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), and 12 other cosponsors. (They probably had to hand out name tags at the first needs-assessment meeting.) As a result of the meeting, new programs for finding out why such gross errors as fatal overdoses or wrong amputations occur were announced. One of the new programs, announced by the AMA, was the formation of the National Patient Safety Foundation, which will fund research into error prevention. The other initiative, announced by the JCAHO, was establishment of an accreditation watch on hospitals that commit preventable errors. Such hospitals will have 30 days to report to JCAHO on the root cause of the problem.