Category: Amusements

Let the porn industry reopen the economy

published date
April 16th, 2020 by
Anthony S. Fauci M.D. NIAID Director 26759498706
Give the people what they want!

We’ve heard it over and over again. We can’t reopen the economy until we have a robust testing process in place for #coronavirus. Employees need to be tested frequently so they can return to work and stay on the job without infecting others and causing the whole worksite to have to close down and stay shut.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump, the CDC and much of the rest of the federal government have demonstrated sustained incompetence on getting testing going. Countries like Germany and China are organizing testing programs and restarting their economies.

Obviously we aren’t Asia or Europe. We need an American solution! And we need an adult in the room.

The obvious answer is to enlist the adult film industry in returning the economy to normalcy. The industry has operated a testing system successfully for years to stave off threats of infections from HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

From Rewire.News

The [Free Speech Coalition] took over managing sexual health protocols for the mainstream, straight porn world in 2011. It has since developed a set of testing guidelines known as the Performer Availability Screening Services (PASS) system. The guidelines have shifted over the years, but as of today, performers in the system test every two weeks for HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, Hepatitis B and C, and trichomoniasis at a handful of clinics that partner with the FSC. If performers test positive for any non-HIV infection, a central database visible to agents, studios, and other performers automatically flags them as unavailable for work until they test negative. It also flags them if they have gone more than two weeks without being tested…

Unlike old systems of bringing copies of a recent test to a set, this database system protects performers’ real identities and medical information—and prevents test doctoring to hide results, an issue that has led to outbreaks of STIs like syphilis in the past.

Here is some background from the PASS website. Forgot about the titillating nature of the work for a moment. Replace “performer” with employee and there you have it. Why wouldn’t we want the same thing for other workplaces?

Performer Availability Scheduling Services provides guidelines and services for the adult production industry designed to ensure a safe and healthy work environment of performers and adult film professionals. The program includes:

  1. A series of nationwide testing sites providing low cost, high-quality testing in a timely manner

2. Performers have electronic access to testing results directly from labs

3. Variety of medical providers for treatment of performers in need of medical follow-up

4. Consistent standards and guidelines for testing and treatment of adult performers

5. A secure database that ensures performer privacy and protects producer liability

6. Protocol for performer support in the event of a positive HIV test result, including funding for testing of 1st and 2nd generation partners

It’s time for Dr. Fauci to team up with stars of the adult film industry to replace the President’s daily briefing with a more informative, entertaining and productive replacement.

Strange times make for strange bedfellows. So be it!

How to get Noom for free

published date
March 31st, 2020 by

Noom combines an app with human coaching to help people lose weight and keep it off. The company’s typical user loses 7.5% of body weight over the course of a four month program.  Customers are joining like crazy, and revenue quadrupled last year.

After hearing about Noom on NPR late last year I signed up, paying $44.99 per month. To put it in perspective, that’s almost twice what I pay for my gym. Plus, my health insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts actually reimburses me for three months of gym membership.

And that got me thinking, if Blue Cross pays for me to stay fit at the gym, maybe they would pay for my weight loss program as well. After all, trimmer people cost insurers less money. So I called Blue Cross and they told me they actually do cover weight loss plans, the same way they cover gym memberships.

Once I found out about the benefit, it was incredibly simple to get reimbursed. I typed in some basic information online, uploaded my Noom receipt –and today I received a check for the full amount of my Noom membership. No co-pays, no deductibles, no negotiated discount!

Screenshot 2020 03 30 23.35.25
Online form

It wasn’t easy to find, though, so I’m writing this post to give others a heads up. Here’s where I had to go on the Blue Cross site to find the benefit:

  • Login> My plans> Plan Details> Plan Benefits> Benefit Details> Routine Adult Physical Exams Covered By Your Plan
Screenshot 2020 03 30 23.45.06
Where’s Weight Loss?

Buried at the bottom of a run-on paragraph with no line breaks, I found the following run-on section with weird punctuation and a typo:

Weight Loss Benefit – you and your covered family members can be reimbursed for up to 3 months of participation fees paid to a weight loss program that is hospital-based; or one that is non-hospital-based program focused on eating and physical activity habits, and behavioral/lifestyle counseling with certified health professionals (in-person, by phone, or online). You can request this reimbursement once each calendar year; requests must be submitted by March 31 of the following year.

Bingo! (Although can someone explain why on earth this would be in the physical exams benefit?)

Noom isn’t specifically mentioned, but when I called Blue Cross they assured me the company was on the list. They also told me my call was being recorded in case I was denied and wanted to complain later! That was comforting.

Anyway, the moral of this story is to check with your health plan to see if they’ll pay for Noom. You might be pleasantly surprised. And who couldn’t use a little break during these tough financial times?


Judgment day at Planet Fitness

published date
February 13th, 2020 by
UNADJUSTEDNONRAW thumb 9b74
No judgment

My hotel in NYC has a decent gym, but I was looking for something more. So I visited the Planet Fitness right on the same block. I’d never been to a Planet Fitness before, but right away I noticed something odd. “Judgement free zone,” is plastered all over the place. It’s on the walls and every piece of equipment –pretty much everywhere.

Back in the day (before spell checkers) I was a good speller. I did well in the spelling bee at summer camp as a kid. (I didn’t win, because I got nervous and misspelled the word “recommend,” even though I knew better.) Still, I can usually spot a typo, and I didn’t think the American version needed that extra “e.”

Sure enough, Easy Street blogged about this very topic five years ago.

Misspellings provoke judgment from readers who catch errors. However, as with most misspellers, Planet Fitness had moved on. According to a spokesperson, “Spelling judgement with an ‘e’ started out as a mistake. Back in 1998 we considered changing it to the traditional spelling, but decided to keep it because it fit with our brand personality—we are judgment free on all matters, so what better way to demonstrate this than by keeping the original incorrect spelling.”

Who really cares? No one.

But it did get me thinking about how computerized tools and artificial intelligence can rob us of certain skills and brain function, even a they relieve drudgery and improve quality and consistency. Think about the GPS. On the one hand, it guides me to the optimal route and gives me the confidence to explore unknown areas. On the other hand, I can barely read a map these days or learn new routes on my own.

The same problems apply to healthcare providers, and I first wrote about this issue nine years ago: Are decision support tools turning doctors into idiots? If every answer is a click away or embedded into automated decision support tools, it’s hard to think for oneself.


By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams, president of Health Business Group.

Health disparities: You ain’t seen nothing yet

published date
January 22nd, 2020 by
girl 320262 1280
Welcome to the machine

A survey in the UK showed that the gap in health between rich and poor is widening. From the US perspective that comes as a bit of a surprise. After all, don’t the Brits have universal healthcare through the NHS?

But of course, social determinants of health such as diet, exercise, stress, access to transportation, and education play a bigger role in health than the healthcare system. With socioeconomic disparities widening, it serves to reason that health disparities will grow, too.

So where do things go from here? They probably get worse –that’s my guess. Current political and economic forces in the US, UK and elsewhere point toward an exacerbation of current gaps. And as climate change makes the world a generally harsher environment it’s the poor who will be more adversely affected by floods, fires, air pollution, etc.

But in a decade or two that will be nothing compared with the haves and have nots wrought by the advancement of medical technology. Expect the well off to increasingly invest in tools that let them get further ahead: for example cyborg inventions that augment intelligence, strength, vision, hearing and more. Not to mention artificial organs and genetic interventions to greatly extend life.

Will such modifications make people happy? Maybe not. But it will enable them to lord it over the rest of society to an increasingly greater degree.

Enjoy!

Partners dissolves into Mass General Brigham. I’m quoted in the Boston Globe

published date
December 4th, 2019 by

Massachusetts General Hospital and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital joined together as Partners HealthCare 25 years ago. Now they’re changing the name to Mass General Brigham, spending up to $100 million in the process. I’m quoted on the subject in a recent front page Boston Globe article (In major rebranding, Partners HealthCare to change name to Mass General Brigham).

What’s in a name, you may ask? In this case it’s worth parsing the change and exploring the history.

What does Partners mean anyway?

Partners HealthCare never had much brand equity. The word “partners” really described the decision of the two hospitals to partner with one another to offset the power of managed care organizations to play them off against one another. All HMOs needed one of those hospitals in their network, but not both. With Partners it was all or nothing. Partners had no problem playing “take it or leave it” right from the get go, nearly bringing Tufts Health Plan to its knees in the late 90s.

So unlike your typical business combination, which relies on elimination of duplication and other efficiencies to be successful, Partners succeeded right away by virtue of its enhanced market power and high pricing. Duplication remained –and remains to this day. MGH and the Brigham continued to move forward on their own while a new Partners overhead was introduced. No one –not patients, not doctors, not nurses– developed any attachment to Partners as an entity.

Why keep General?

Massachusetts General Hospital has kept the same name since its charter was granted by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1811. It’s a proud name, and maybe sometimes a little too proud. (Some say MGH stands for Man’s Greatest Hospital.)

“Massachusetts” is shortened and “Hospital” is omitted from the new name. Of all the words to keep, why was “General” left intact? It seems so… generic. But it also reminds us of the grand era of American industry. General Motors. General Electric. General Atomics. (Remember that one.) The idea was that the one General company could dominate the industry and we’d all be the better for it.

Outside of this state, errr… Commonwealth, “Mass” doesn’t necessarily mean Massachusetts. It could mean a Catholic Mass or a big pile of something. But MGH is so often referred to here and abroad as Mass General that it must have seemed safe to trim it down officially, since the whole name is long anyway.

Where did the Women go?

How did Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) get its name? Unlike MGH, BWH went through some name changes, although none recently. The Boston Lying in Hospital was founded in 1832 and the Free Hospital for Women came about in 1875. They merged in 1966 to become the Boston Hospital for Women. (Apparently that name didn’t stick right away, since I was always told I was born in the Lying in Hospital –even though I was born after the merger.)

In 1980, the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, Robert Breck Brigham Hospital and Boston Hospital for Women merged (not partnered) to become BWH.

If they had called it the Women’s and Brigham the Women’s name might have survived the latest consolidation rather than being unceremoniously lopped off.

GSK not G SK

Back in the 1980s and 1990s a lot of big pharmaceutical companies merged. It was typical for them to drop the last name of their multiword names when they did. For example, SmithKline & French became SmithKline Beckman after merging with Beckman and then SmithKline Beecham after merging with Beecham.

When Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham came together they followed a similar path. But you may notice they went with GlaxoSmithKline rather than Glaxo SmithKline, because the SmithKline people thought that would make it harder to get rid of their name later on. That’s a true story. I was there.

The stratagem has worked so far.

I wonder whether the BWH folks lobbied for MassGeneralBrigham to avoid a similar fate down the road.

When did Hospital become a bad word?

Remember when there were doctors and hospitals? Now it’s providers, medical centers and health systems. Hospitals still dominate economically and politically, but there is a general (and welcome) shift to lower acuity settings of care. Meanwhile Partners has vacuumed up so many other hospitals, physicians and other players that “hospital” no longer belongs in the name.

An interesting marker of the new company’s brand equity and name recognition is that unlike virtually every other new healthcare organization or company, it omits the word “health” from its name. People already understand it’s a healthcare organization.

What about Harvard?

MGH and BWH are both Harvard hospitals. So why not just call it the Harvard Hospital System or Harvard Health System? The use of the Harvard name could be a topic for its own post (Harvard Pilgrim –originally Harvard Community Health Plan and soon to merge with Tufts but with no name announced yet– is a great example) but the simple answer is that while MGH and BWH are Harvard hospitals, there are others like Beth Israel Deaconess and Boston Children’s that are also affiliated with the University.

——

By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams, president of Health Business Group.