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Patient calls donation letter 'poor marketing decision'
By Kathleen Longcore
"When you're in the hospital, you want the very best nurses attending to your needs. ... We need your help now to maintain -- and even enhance -- our time-honored tradition of quality nursing care ... won't you consider sending a gift of $15, $25, or $35."
The mailing raised money for nursing scholarships. But it struck Buth as a quid pro quo: We took care of you, now it's your turn to take care of us. She called it "shameful" Spectrum would use the misfortune of former patients to raise cash.
Buth said the mailing was a "really poor marketing decision."
"Here I am, struggling with the rigors of life and death, and I get this letter," she said. "Yes, I'm grateful to my nurses, and yes, they saved my life. But don't use that to come at me and ask for money."
Spectrum officials said they meant well and were surprised Buth took offense.
"Our intent was honorable, and we've certainly gotten some good response," spokesman Bruce Rossman said of the letter, mailed last month. Officials received about a dozen complaints on "thousands" of letters sent out.
He said the privacy form patients sign when admitted also gives the hospital and the foundation permission to solicit them for donations. That paragraph is the last in an eight-page document.
Buth said she did not read it. "But when I was admitted, I was dying and I signed everything they put in front of me. I was worried about staying alive," she said.
Mass mailings are not unusual for hospitals looking for ways to augment their funds, said Sherry Mirasola, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Health &Hospital Association. "And direct mail is the American way."
But was it ethical, Buth asks?
"Ethics are in the eye of the beholder," Mirasola said, noting some people expect hospitals to be above soliciting.
All nonprofit health-care systems, including Saint Mary's Health Care, use direct mail to raise money, said Michelle Rabideau, a spokeswoman for Saint Mary's. However, Saint Mary's has not done any "grateful patient" mailings like Spectrum's, she said.
"Patients that are grateful are some of our most generous donors. But typically a grateful patient comes to us personally," Rabideau said.
A law passed in 2003 to protect patients' privacy -- the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) -- also governs health-care fund-raising. It allows mass mailings to former patients to solicit donations.
However, hospitals cannot use information from patients' records to target them for directed funding requests without written consent.
Rossman said it was a coincidence Buth got the nursing fund mailing and a male friend who had an outpatient heart test got a letter asking for money for cardiac care. But the privacy statement signatures would have given the hospital permission to target them this way, he said.
Patients can opt out of receiving the letters by writing to the hospital's privacy office.
Spectrum's nursing funds campaign will give 2,700 nurses from Spectrum hospitals, primary care offices, surgery centers and urgent care centers more opportunities for advancement, said Shawn Ulreich, a Spectrum vice president and chief nursing officer. She said most nurses welcomed this.
However, some didn't like being used to raise funds, said an 18-year nursing veteran. She wouldn't give her name because Spectrum employees who speak to reporters without permission get a written reprimand.
"They didn't tell us they were doing this letter; we heard about it from the patients," she said. "And it just seems so tacky."
It is insulting to nurses to imply that patients who donate money will get good nursing care, she said.
Patients who get pleas for cash can ignore them or say no, Mirasola said. And if they don't like the tone of a solicitation, they should contact the hospital.
Buth said if Spectrum can't afford to fund nurses' education, they have other options. "Don't build another building; train your nurses instead," she said.
Answer the Phone: Your Identity is on the Line
Beverly Hills, CA -- (ArriveNet - May 06, 2005) -- There hasn't been much good news in the battle against identity theft lately, with fraudsters staying one step ahead of the game. But don't panic, our old friend the telephone has come to the rescue.
We're all aware of the problem of identity theft, but did you know that your local pizza chain has had a solution for years? You recognize it as the system that prevents little Johnny from having twenty pizzas delivered to your door at midnight: the pizza chain calls you immediately after the order is placed to verify the validity of the order. Because little Johnny is afraid to be caught, he'll think twice about causing this pizza-related havoc.
TeleSign's patent-pending verification system has transferred this pizza concept to the high-tech world. It works like this: after filling out a form on a website, the user is prompted to enter his phone number. A robotic system then places a call to that number and speaks aloud a unique three digit code. Once that code is entered into the website, the authentication is complete. This system can be implemented at any point on a website: at registration, purchase, a specific time interval, or at the request of a user.
Email verification is the current standard for user authentication, but email may end up filtered, junked, bulked, or trashed. Because of spam, viruses, and phishing, email filtering has become so aggressive that even legitimate emails don't reach the inbox. But a telephone call cannot be stopped, making this the perfect time for the introduction of TeleSigns solution.
The future of ecommerce is threatened by rampant fraud and lack of trust. TeleSign will force anonymous users to expose their faces by revealing their working phone numbers.
To try an interactive demo, visit (http://www.telesign.com/demo2/demo.asp) and have your phone ready.
For more information about TeleSigns products and services, visit (http://www.telesign.com/demo2/) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About TeleSign Corp.
TeleSign Corp. seeks to provide simplified solutions for any company conducting business online where trust is essential and where fraud is a concern. TeleSigns patent-pending Verification System provides a critical layer of security for the e-commerce world and is a proven deterrent against ill-intentioned web users. TeleSigns Verification System is able to legitimize a web users claimed identification at a miniscule cost and with little inconvenience to all parties involved.
TeleSigns Verification System is based upon the premise that ill-intentioned web users hesitate to disclose their working phone numbers. By placing a computer-generated telephone call coupled with a unique security code, we insist that a web user provide a legitimate telephone number or be rooted out. The companys first product, the TeleSign Verification System, blends the latest internet, security and telephony technologies into a powerful new tool to combat fraud in e-commerce.
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