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HEARD ON THE BEAT / HEALTH CARE

Doctors See Healthy Market for Treating Sick Travelers

September 18, 1997|BARBARA MARSH | Barbara Marsh covers health care for The Times

Among the hordes of tourists and business travelers descending daily on Anaheim, many get sick.

These waylaid wayfarers mean business for local health care providers.

Martin Luther Hospital in Anaheim and HotelDocs, a national doctors-on-call service, recently teamed up in an effort to capture more of these people before they wind up in another local hospital's emergency room or fly home to see their own doctors.

Four physicians at Martin Luther have agreed to make hotel-room visits. HotelDocs promises to have a doctor at the hotel room in about half an hour. It charges patients $150 per visit between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. and tacks on an additional $45 after hours.

Patients requiring hospitalization or services such as X-rays are referred to Martin Luther, where they are promised care within half an hour or sooner, depending on their needs.

"Anaheim is a big tourist area because it's so close to everything in Southern California, has lots of hotels, and it's easy for tourists to visit Disneyland and Universal Studios," said Kevin Brenden, a vice president at La Jolla-based HotelDocs.

Sick tourists represent an attractive market because so many are paying customers, said Jack Ivie, a hospital executive. "Many of the travelers we are seeing are people from out of the country. Foreign visitors are usually under the impression that medical costs in this country are extremely high, and they all buy travelers' insurance," Ivie said.

Brenden said travelers' insurance plans are required to cover care for food poisoning, urinary tract infections, heart problems and other serious ailments. HotelDocs is trying to negotiate service contracts with insurers but has not lined up any yet.

"About 90% of the insurance plans do reimburse for our services," Brenden said.

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Barbara Marsh covers health care for The Times. She Can be reached at (714) 966-7762 and at barbara.marsh@latimes.com

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