News Briefs

Y2K global impact can be viewed on Internet

At midnight on New Year’s Eve in New Zealand, a World Bank-funded organization will begin monitoring any Y2K problems and posting the information on the Internet, reports Reuters News. The 17-hour lag time to the East Coast will give companies in the United States advance notice of any Y2K failures.

Using a standardized reporting format, the International Y2K Cooperation Center in Washington, DC, plans to collect data from 170 or more national Y2K coordinators. Its Web site (www.iy2kcc.org) will flash color-coded reports on everything from energy and communications to financial and government services and air, land, and sea transport.

Anyone with access to the Internet will be able to monitor, country by country, the status of the technology-challenging date change — assuming the Internet itself does not go haywire. One goal is to prevent panic and rumor mongering.

The center, which operates on a $1 million budget and was set up under United Nations auspices in February, has been stitching together regional discussions to deal with cross-border issues, to swap data, and to prepare contingency plans.


OIG says projects saved more than $1 million

In their first 18 months of operation, the Administration on Aging’s (AOA) health care fraud and abuse control projects reported saving an estimated $1.24 million in Medicare funds and $102,000 in Medicaid funds, according to a report from the Office of the Inspector General in Washington, DC.

The projects also generated 133 formal complaints that resulted in some action. Currently, AOA has two separate anti-fraud projects that use differing methods to train Medicare beneficiaries to spot and report health care fraud and abuse.

The report noted, however, that direct evidence of savings was difficult to obtain for several reasons, including the practice of encouraging beneficiaries to directly contact providers or Medicare contractors with their concerns. It also noted that performance among the projects is uneven.

OIG encouraged AOA to continue the projects. A companion report identified common problems with the projects and highlighted which practices are effective. The reports can be accessed at www. dhhs.gov/progorg/oei/whatsnew.html.


Seniors not wowed by on-line pharmacies

Seniors who have visited on-line drugstores and pharmacies are unlikely to return for over-the-counter medications or prescriptions, according to Greenfield Online’s July national "Surfing Seniors" study of 1,200 people age 55 and older. Some 32% have visited a drugstore site, but 56% said that they were not very likely or not likely at all to buy products through these sites in the future.

Top sites visited by seniors were:

Site % Visited Site

Drugstore.com 44%

Mothernature.com 24%

Planetrx.com 22%

Vitaminshoppe.com 17%

Healthshop.com 17%

Greentree.com 17%

Enutrition.com 12%

GNC.com 11%

Only 9% purchased prescription drugs when visiting an on-line store, while more than twice as many purchased over-the-counter products. The study did not specifically ask the seniors why they would not order again from the on-line pharmacies, says Gail Janensch, APR, director of public relations for the Westport, CT-based research company. However, researchers believe the results reflect the initial reluctance of older consumers to accept new technology.


Institute launches virtual patient information site

The Cooper Institute for Advanced Studies in Medicine and the Humanities in Naples, FL, announced a Web site, www.cooperinstitute.org, that is designed to prepare consumers to be more active and assertive partners in the management of their health care.

Designed in concert with Imagun in Naples, the Cooper Institute Virtual Patient Education Resource Center includes the following features:

Health Brief Tool Kit — Presents a series of electronic brochures that illustrate tools and principles that consumers can use to navigate the health care system.

Physician Profiler — Furnishes a comprehensive list of all major health care professional information databases available to the public including links, search costs, and quality/content reviews.

On the Hill Legislative Update — Provides links to sites that track both federal and state health care legislation.

Up Close & Personal Interview Series — Presents in-depth interviews with leading-edge experts, health care professionals, and patients concerning the impact of technology, legislation, business, and societal practices on consumers in health care.

At the Core of Care Physician Award — Recognizes physicians who have been nominated by their patients as examples of health care providers who consistently deliver outstanding care.