Medical Travel – 3 Simple Steps to Getting Quality Orthopedic Care

With healthcare costs skyrocketing, more and more Americans – both insured and uninsured – are looking for quality care outside of the U.S. State-of-the-art hospitals abroad offer the latest cutting-edge procedures performed in the U.S. including orthopedic procedures such as knee or hip replacement surgery. International hospitals also offer U.S. patients the benefit of providing procedures not yet available in the U.S., such as and lumbar dynamic stabilization procedure for the spine, a non-invasive alternative to the common, more drastic and less effective spinal fusion.

Before trusting one’s health to hospitals or hip replacement surgeons abroad or locally, it’s a wise idea to research all options and ensure the care provided meets the highest standards of medical treatment available.

Following three steps will help ensure that medical travelers receive the best care when shopping for quality orthopedic care away from home.

Step One: Ask for a Quote

Even when placing priority on quality medical care abroad, it is still important to plan both treatment and travel within a budget. Experienced professionals can provide a quote that is customized to the medical traveler’s unique needs.

There are a number of reputable medical travel agencies for medical travelers to choose from, however, more and more international hospitals are beginning to offer medical travel coordination services so that the patient and insurance company can address all issues and questions related to the procedure with ‘one stop shopping’. Hospitals providing medical travel services will package the surgeon’s fees, anesthesia and other hospital fees, hospital stay, lab tests into quote, adding hotel and airline separately so the patient enjoys full transparency of the breakdown of the costs. After narrowing the selection of hospitals, the next step is to provide one’s medical history and records for the most accurate quote. Some hip replacement surgeons may require a consultation, depending on the complexity of the individual’s needs, but should arrange these consultations for free.

This first step will provide a clear expectation of what the surgery and hospital care will cost, with no unpleasant surprises. That’s why it’s smart to have a full team of trustworthy professionals looking out for the medical traveler’s best interests, and delivering peace of mind.

Step Two: Medical Travel Coordination

The first step in planning for medical travel is deciding on one of the hip replacement surgeons and having a phone consultation with the surgeon. A full discussion of your case should occur, including information about the prostethetics, the length of the procedure, pre-surgery instructions and full detailing of what to expect during the recovery period. After the surgeon has reviewed one’s medical records and approved the medical traveler for surgery, the next step is to meet with a travel coordinator who will simplify the tedious tasks of arranging travel, lodging, and any other additional costs or accommodations needed during travel.

The travel coordinator should provide an itinerary that includes a detailed schedule, travel information, important contact numbers, and other pertinent details. All transportation should be arranged upon arrival, so treatment can begin as soon as possible. Reputable companies arrange the travel itineraries for all travelling companions, as well.

Step Three: Surgery and Quality After Care

In some cases, hip replacement surgeons may require a follow-up consultation before the medical traveler is released to travel home. If that’s the case, the medical travel company should have access to low prices on hotel rooms close to the hospital where the traveler can stay in the interim.

Following hip replacement surgery, a surgeon will recommend using compression stockings to prevent blood clots. This requires special attention when the individual is returning home. Special arrangements may need to be made for the travel post surgery, another overwhelming task made easier when working with a dedicated and professional medical travel hospital or agency.

The difference is quite simple: when trusting one’s health to a hip replacement surgeon, there is a lot of stress and emotion involved. It is often difficult and to choose a quality hip replacement surgeon in a foreign country while also trying to plan the travel details.

However, a good company will prioritize the unique needs of a medical traveler before, during, and after surgery. Professionals work on the individual’s behalf, taking into consideration specific medical needs, to find the best hip replacement surgeon, arrange consultations and medical procedures, as well as providing quotes of cost for medical travel and even making arrangements for a less stressful experience.

Perspectives on Personal Health Record and Their Maintenance for Your Better Health

Most people do not carry medical records when they leave home. They do not realize that in an emergency, which no one can predict, these medical records can make a big difference. In fact, they could save a life. Previous medications, history of allergy to medications, and other significant medical or surgical history can help a physician to optimize treatment. The National Health Council recommends you to keep a personal health record and take it with you to your doctor. It’s one thing to document your medical information it’s another to know when and how to use it.

The main components of a Good personal health record are:

* Your name, birth date, blood type and emergency contact

* Date of last physical

* Dates and results of tests and screenings

* Major illnesses and surgeries, with dates

* A list of your medicines, dosages and how long you’ve taken them

* Any allergies

* Any chronic diseases

* Any history of illnesses in your family

Personal health records in paper based format have been used since the beginning of modern health care services. These have several disadvantages as they cannot be accessed rapidly during emergency, difficulties in sharing of these records, security and vulnerable to physical destruction as shown in recent Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans in 2005. These records are also difficult to carry around for the individual when migrating to another medical center or health care provider.

Although there are different methods to record one’s personal health, Portable Digital Personal Health Record Storage medias are popular since they offer the advantage to Individuals to enable them maintain their health information at their own computer hard drive or other storage devices. Moreover, these could be made easily accessible to any health care provider by the individual who controls the data.

Electronic management of personal health records were developed in the last 2 decades by several electronic health software vendors. Rapid growth in this sector was noticed during the dot-com bubble era.Today, with the growth of Web 2.0 in the internet, there is renewed interest in Personal health records in electronic format. Many still have confusion about Personal health records (PHR) and Electronic health records (EMR).PHRs are different. EMRs or electronic medical records are developed in Hospitals and medical centers, these legal health records are created and stored in health care settings and patients have no control over these records. They contain the longitudinal medical information of any patient over a period of time. A fully functioning EMR is described as one that includes a clinical data repository, controlled medical vocabulary, computerized provider order entry, clinical documentation or charting, pharmacy management, electronic medication administration record, major ancillary systems (for example, laboratory, diagnostic imaging, cardiology, and so on.) and picture archive and communication systems (PACS).

However, PHRs or Personal health records are created by the individuals and patients can have full control over these records. These can contain in addition to medical illness information, health related information. The models are shrink wrapped unlike the EMRs.They could also include complete demographics of the patient along with essential health insurance details. In addition they could also include record of illness over a period of time.

Personal health records have a useful role to play in health care management. Adopting technologies in health care will significantly reduce the cost and improve the effectiveness of health care delivery. Over prescription of medications, duplication of tests and lack of sharing of medical information among health care service providers has resulted in increased cost of health care in the current era.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purpose only and is in no way intended to be a substitute for medical consultation with a qualified professional. The author encourages Internet users to be careful when using medical information. If you are unsure about your medical condition, consult a physician.

4 Most Important Points to Consider While Finding a New Auto Repair Shop

Whoever owns a car has always a trusted auto repair shop in his/her locality. However, when someone moves to a new city, he needs to find everything from scratch. Just like you need to find a new house, a new telephone connection, and a new doctor, you should also find a trusted auto services center that can help you in maintaining your vehicle. Looking for an auto shop near your new house right in the beginning will give you ample time to search and find out the best and will make it easier for you to deal with car problems in emergency situations. Given below are few tips that will make it easier for you to find a good and trusted automobile shop:

Visit Different Shops and Check their Equipment
You can make an online search and quickly find out the list of these shops located in your vicinity. You can then shortlist a few and visit them. Make sure that the auto technicians are using advanced equipment needed to diagnose problems with modern day vehicles. If you find it difficult to determine the quality of equipment they are using, feel free to ask. Even though you are not much knowledgeable about different types of vehicle equipment, you can still get an idea.

Inquire About their Rates and Services
While you are visiting the shop, look around to check if they are clean and organized. You can inquire about their hourly rates, prices of replacement parts, quality of repairs made, fair shop rates, etc. You can also ask customers present there about their experiences in using the services of the auto shop. Don’t forget to ask the customers about their consistent quality service and customer care department

Check their Certifications
Certifications are given to auto technicians only after they pass a rigorous review process. Therefore, a certified auto repair shop is always better than non-certified ones. Check if the shop has any certifications from car manufacturers.

Check for Complaints with BBB
You can check with the local Better Business Bureau to ensure that no complaints are filed against the repair shop. Whether the repair shops are part of BBB or not, they can still have complaints about the shop and their services.

It is important to take care of the above mentioned points and search for the right auto center in the new city. Even though it may take time, but a little patience and some effort will help you find the right auto repair shop much before you need it.

Luxury Travel on a Shoestring Budget – Money Saving Travel Tips

Love to travel but don’t have the thousands of dollars to do it?

You can get luxury travel on a shoestring budget by planning your vacation or trip just a bit more carefully.
Read a few of these tips, and then go on your well-deserved getaway without burning a hole in your pocket.

Always remember: When planning your trip, timing is key.

For example, school vacation weeks are the worst times to plan trips. Most parents have no choice but to travel at these high-peak seasons, so school vacation periods in any country are always going to be crowded. The airfare is always sky high – no pun intended.

If you’ve traveled during these peak seasons, you may noticed that coach seats during a school vacation week could cost you more money than a first class ticket during the off-season. So remember, unless you MUST travel during these peak periods, avoid winter and spring breaks at all costs.

Here’s another important tip: Regardless of how you decide to book your luxury travel arrangements – either through a travel agent or through an online travel website – make sure that you know exactly who you are working with. For example, your best bet to save on a hotel and car rental package is probably going to be with Priceline.com’s “name your own price” option. However, Priceline.com is not the best choice for international airline travel. You’d be better off with an agent. Either way you go, try to use the same travel agent or service. This makes sure that you build a solid relationship with the company you’re dealing with. If you are loyal to them, they will be loyal to you. Always remember, they want your business.

Think about how frequent flier programs work: if you choose their airline consistently, they’ll reward you by giving you a free flight. Granted, you’ll need to do a lot of flying if you’re just going to earn points sitting on a plane, but with a little research, you’ll find ways to make loyalty programs work in your favor. When booking online or with an agent, make sure you always ask questions. You will never get anywhere from being silent.

If for some reason the company you’re working with makes an error, be sure to take advantage of it. Most companies want to keep up a high level of customer satisfaction, and they rely on their guests to provide them with information on how to achieve that. See if they could possibly upgrade an aspect of your trip. Your coach tickets could turn into first class, or maybe your suite could turn into a deluxe version. Don’t be scared to ask for upgrades. If they say no, then you’re no worse off than before. Your criticism will ensure that yourself (and other travelers) will have a satisfactory luxury vacation.

When you’re looking your vacation online, you should search travel review sites for agents or an agencies who have shown they willing to work with unhappy customers, an have proven that they excel at customer service. Many times, customer service representatives get aggravated with customers who complain, or the service reps are based in a foreign country and can only read from a script. And you probably already know that scripts don’t cover every possible customer service issue that a traveler may encounter.

You’ll find just about any travel service rated on a review site somewhere. Just keep in mind that people like to complain about bad experiences, so you’ll find many more complaints than good reviews for even the most well-known travel services. So take the complaints with a grain of salt. Look for the most commonly re-occurring complaints (like bad customer service). Most bad experiences are not usually the fault of the service. Rather the experience occurred because of the traveler’s misunderstanding of the travel site policies.

* * * Read your travel site’s terms and conditions BEFORE you book reservations * * *

You want to consider all aspects of your deal; not just the price tag. Quality wins over quantity in some cases. You find a rate online offering a room at $20.00 a night. It may sound appealing, right? Maybe you’re taking your family to Disney World and you figured you just need someplace to rest your head at night. But when you check-in, that’s when you discover the bathroom is shared with everyone on the floor, there’s police tape strung across the the door to the room next to yours, and you see prostitutes wandering in the parking lot. Maybe this deal WAS too good to be true.

Do your research. There’s plenty of information available to educate yourself on discounted travel mastery. Most of it is available for free; some of it you may have to pay for if you don’t want to do the research. Go to travel websites and forums specific to the type of trip you’re planning to take: Cruise, adventure tour, etc. If you are itching to take a trip that you don’t want to pay full price for, and you opt to pay for money-saving travel information online, I’d recommend that you only consider offers that give you a 100% money-back guarantee. If you don’t get great money-saving travel tips, at least you can get your money back.

Sales Principles & The Mental Health Profession – Strategies That Lead To Success In The Marketplace

CHALLENGES FOR THE PROFESSION

Mental Health issues make their way across the newswire at an alarming rate. We hear about teenage suicide, random acts of violence, an increase in depression and anxiety across all ages, substance abuse, complex trauma at home and abroad. Even more alarming are societal maladies that are rarely discussed. Children forever lost in chaotic homes where violence and sexual abuse is pervasive with national and local systems ill equipped to effectively address these tragedies. Such is the world a mental health professional finds herself/himself thrust into as part of a calling to serve and help those suffering psychological and emotional pain.

A mental health career is a noble and courageous endeavor, which can come at a significant price. We see state governments use mental health services as a scapegoat for poor financial management and planning, choosing to balance their Medicaid books at the expense of community based mental health programs. As a result, mental health practitioners are asked to serve effectively with few resources, little pay and even fewer options to grow professionally.

Mental health services in the private sector are equally challenging. Insurance companies devalue these services as evidenced by limited reimbursement rates, few behavioral healthcare plans for employees, and the implementation of complex and convoluted systems that test the most patient and saint-worthy of practitioners.

In spite of all these challenges in the mental health marketplace, there are specific business strategies and approaches practitioners can adopt in an effort to overcome these obstacles and ultimately triumph in the profession. In this article I discuss many of the key strategies and will expound on them in greater detail in future publications. The understanding and use of best-in-class sales and marketing principles will serve to complement an already rich skill set that will help mental health professionals succeed in ways they may not have imagined possible!

SECRETS OF SUCCESS & THE SALES STIGMA

The business world is changing at an incredibly fast pace and many of these changes have a profound impact on the way people do business. Most of us in the mental health field, however, remain blissfully ignorant and unaware of these subtle but powerful events. Those lucky few who become aware of some of these changes (e.g., technological advances that decentralize and empower people at all levels; new concepts in sales & marketing that enable you to grow your business at hyper-speed using a sophisticated multimedia approach) are presented with a window of opportunity that can lead to tremendous growth and independence. Opportunities abound for those who are open to some of these new ideas and willing to integrate new concepts into their mental health service model. The key lies in how highly skilled mental health professionals approach the marketplace and what tools they choose to use in order to succeed in a competitive environment. As a licensed clinician and mental health consultant for over 15 years I have seen many success stories that were the direct result of the effective use of the key principles I discuss in this article.

A key area most mental health professionals are sorely lacking and unaware is in understanding, utilizing and integrating sophisticated sales skills within their practice! Did you say sales skills?! Yes, indeed I did. Clinicians receive heavy doses of clinical training in graduate schools and continuing education programs. However, very little is offered in terms of how to succeed in the profession from both a financial and career development perspective. There are business seminars focusing on billing practices, business systems, and various administrative tasks but few if any discuss the power and importance of sales skills in our profession. This area is often so untapped that adopting even some of the more basic principles will immediately distinguish you in the profession and give you an extreme economic advantage in the mental health marketplace.

At first glance the idea of adopting sales principles conjures up images of self-serving, manipulative tactics and ploys. As a result, a sales approach is often the furthest from the mind of a mental health professional. However, this position is misguided and comes from a limited understanding of sales theory and practice in general. First and foremost, selling and the sales process is a critical element in all areas of commerce. No business takes place without a sales transaction of some sort or another. Mental Health services are not utilized unless a sale is made and someone chooses to use a specific service, you are not hired into a clinical position unless you effectively sell yourself to the hiring manager, a private practice does not last long without consistent sales for services, and funding for community programs is not awarded unless a government entity is sold on the need and importance of those services. As a result, our first step here is to acknowledge and accept that sales are a critical part of the process in the mental health business.

Once we come to recognize this fact we must also dispel the myth about sales being a sleazy and unethical profession that utilizes manipulative and self-serving tactics at the expense of others. Like any profession, there are theoretical frameworks and people within the business who would no doubt support these negative stereotypes. However, when we take a closer look at the sales profession we find that it can also be a highly sophisticated, philosophical and value driven profession that is perfectly suited for the helping professions.

UNRAVELING THE SALES SKILL MYSTERY: ESSENTIAL PRINCIPLES TO HELP YOU STAND OUT

Having taken a closer look at the importance and scope of sales our next logical step is to explore sales theory and application in greater detail. I have grouped various sales skills/approaches into 4 Core Principles in an effort to help clarify and organize these concepts in a way that makes sense. I must also emphasize that adopting these principles will quickly position you ahead of your competitors! They are extremely powerful principles in that they all contribute to a fundamental shift essential to success in business. What is this shift? The shift I am referring to is a movement away from participating in the selling process to becoming an important/critical part of the buying process. Lead sales experts such as Dale Carnegie, Frank Rumbauskas, and Jeffery Gitomer all emphasize the importance of this paradigm shift in order to achieve high levels of success.

So what does it mean when you talk about moving from the selling process to the buying process? Simply put, your current efforts to sell your services can be a difficult and unrewarding process. At its core it is a process whereby you are not in a position of strength, where you tend to focus on your own interests and where you must seek out others and convince others to use your services. Now what would life be like as a mental health practitioner if people recognized you as an authority in the field or as someone who adds tremendous value and can help them with their needs? When a change occurs where you are viewed as a valuable resource and partner people begin to seek you out without any soliciting on your part. Business comes to you and you find yourself in what sales professionals refer to as being a key part of the buying process. The best thing about this approach is that its foundation is based on integrity, honoring your unique attributes, bringing value and helping others – all hallmarks of the mental health profession.

Let me offer an example to clarify my point. Let’s say you are a mental health clinician who has been in the field many years, you have an expertise in family/child issues and you decide to offer a group on parenting skills. You attend networking events but find that everyone at those events is pitching their own service and not seeking services to buy. Attendees shower you with praise and tout your service as “much needed” and “long overdue”, however, you generate little to no business from those events. You advertise your group to doctors offices and through basic networking channels such as local counseling chapters and school systems. Still no one comes.

The issue here is not necessarily missing the mark in terms of community needs nor is it an issue of skill and competence. People are not coming to you because you have not tapped into the buying process. In the buying scenario, you have built a level of credibility in the community and positioned yourself in such a way that they must go through you in order to access these specific mental health services. Your sales approach and philosophy prompts those in the community to recognize you, talk about you and value you as an important resource. In addition, you create communication channels/systems and remove barriers/obstacles that encourage and allow others to take the next step toward utilizing your services. If you can create this shift your ability to grow as a practitioner multiplies exponentially and with half of the effort! The principles outlined here all contribute to making that change.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these principles.

Principle 1: Be Solution/Customer Focused

Many people in all areas of business mistakenly take an approach where they sell their services versus selling solutions. A distinguishing factor for most people who are successful in their industry is that they are customer focused, meaning they sell the way the customer wants to buy. They focus solely on the needs, problems, wants of the customer and work to find solutions that will help that customer. This concept sounds basic and simple, however, it takes dedication and a high level of skill to be customer focused in the way I am referring to here. Below are some key factors associated with this approach.

  • Sell the way customers want to buy. (Take time to understand customer needs, concerns, problems and wants. Show them you understand them and offer solutions even if it means referring them to someone else who can help.)
  • Give Value! (Use an altruistic approach. Deliver something to potential customers without any expectation of something in return.)
  • Recognize the only way you get others to do something is if you give them what they want. (Manipulative tactics and high-pressure sales tactics do not work. Be persuasive not manipulative and know the difference!)
  • Go above and beyond and be remembered! (Over-deliver on services, give of yourself to the community in unique ways, follow-through in ways that highly impress.)
  • Create a buying atmosphere. (Study customer needs, business systems and their unique market. Provide solutions and remove barriers/obstacles that gives them permission to buy.)
  • The Power of Presence: Listen First, Talk Last and Ask Excellent Questions! (It is the rare individual who truly focuses on the customer in the here and now. Use your clinical skills to understand the needs of the customer.)

Principle 2: Build Credibility & Legitimacy

Do you want to attract high quality referrals for your business? Develop a plan that will position you as an expert in targeted areas within your profession.

  • Become an expert in something. And share that knowledge for free!
  • Understand and study social dynamics and the psychology of power. (Know its role in the sales process and in your profession. Use this knowledge to be in a position of strength with regards to the buying process.)
  • Build credibility and attract what you view as “high-quality referrals” by giving yourself to the community. (e.g., free advice, free services, helpful hints/tips.)
  • Become Published. (Opportunities abound to become published – See Mark Joyner’s e-book “Rise of the Author.” There is tremendous power in being published.)
  • Study the art of presenting and find opportunities to present. (This is perhaps the best value proposition for you as a mental health professional! It builds credibility and creates powerful networks.)

Principle 3: Think Long-Term

Too often we focus on short-term immediate business needs and neglect longer lasting more powerful methods that lead to much greater growth. Focus on relationships and you will create solid sales processes and networks that will enable you to reach much higher levels of success.

  • Stop focusing on the short term and work to build lasting relationships that will lead to referrals and other opportunities.(Sales expert, Jeffrey Gitomer, in his great sales book, The Little Red Book of Selling, says it this way, “Think End of Time not end of Month.”)
  • Focus on others first.(Help colleagues, community members and prospective clients without expectation of something in return.)
  • Always be a resource! (Offer assistance and solutions even if it has nothing to do with your area of expertise. Leverage the expertise of others and share the wealth! Helping professional colleagues will also lead to your long-term success.)
  • Let go of the need/want to benefit yourself and act with the intent of helping others. (In today’s self-serving world it is the rare individual who functions in this manner. And yet, it is a distinguishing factor in a competitive marketplace.)
  • Long-term strategies are equally effective in one’s career development as they are in business development.(Strategies such as informational interviewing and volunteering often lead to significantly better career and advancement opportunities.)

Principle 4: Use Intelligent and Technically Advanced Marketing Systems

Top sales performers in all businesses create effective systems that free up their time for more value driven activities and help create communication and buying vehicles that produce a powerful buying environment for the customer.

  • Leverage technology to market yourself and to create a buying atmosphere.(e.g., website development, public relations & media opportunities such as e-articles, e-books, audio programs, video snapshots.)
  • Automate business activities that are non-essential to your core growth opportunities. (Use technology to automate key activities and identify personnel that can help you work more efficiently.)
  • Build communities that allow for sharing of ideas and networking opportunities. (e.g.,online forums, lunch & learns, supervision meetings.)
  • Understand marketing principles that will effectively brand you.(Social marketing and Viral Marketing are two powerful concepts that leverage the incredible growth in technology. Learn these and others to increase your growth as a successful mental health practitioner and businessperson!)
  • Know the sales cycle for your profession and be persistent with your value messages. (Market Research tells us it typically takes 6-10 exposures to your message before a buying decision is made. Create vehicles that give you a high level of visibility.)

IN CLOSING

The material presented here is merely an introduction to the powerful concepts of selling and how they can be effectively utilized and integrated within a mental health practice. Each of the areas outlined above contain a tremendous amount of depth and richness that require further discussion and clarification in order to gain the full benefits. In the coming months I will look at each principle in greater detail in an effort to clarify concepts, introduce new tools and offer excellent resources from some of the experts in the world of sales and marketing.

Positive Financial Habits Will Get You an Auto Loan Even With a Poor Credit Score

Do you have a Poor Credit Score?

Reasons such as the innocence of youth, a few late payments on bills, loss of employment or a maxed-out credit card can lead a good person to a poor credit score. It doesn’t mean you cannot buy a new car. But, it means that you need to put in extra effort from your end to avail an auto loan with a poor credit score.

Lenders give a Hard Time to Borrowers with a Poor Credit Score

Poor credit borrowers suffer because the lenders charge a high rate of interest and offer larger monthly payments in order to balance the risk. If your credit score is not good, the lender may deny you the auto loan.

Developing Positive Financial Habits can be liberating

When you have a poor credit score, getting approval on an auto loan can be a real problem. So it is important to be prepared. It is wise to educate yourself and do your homework. By educating yourself, you will improve your score and also develop positive financial habits.

Here the question arises: ‘Can you still buy a car?’ The answer is ‘YES’. When you convert your negative habits into positive ones, it is easy to improve your score and thereby increase the chances of getting easy approval on an auto loan.

Take Control of your Negative Habits. Take Control of Your Credit Score

· Late payments have a negative effect on your credit score. Set up an automatic payment option to ascertain timely payments.

· An auto loan is secured with collateral. It means the lender can repossess your car if you miss the payments.

· When you spend more money than you earn, it will affect your credit report. If you continue the practice, you will be bankrupt in the near future.

Positive Financial Habits can get you Easy Approval on An Auto Loan

· By using an auto loan calculator, estimate the monthly payments beforehand. It is important to figure out how much you can pay for a car.

· Don’t assume that you have a poor credit score. Obtain your credit report and check the score.

· Set a budget first. A budget should lead the planning of car buying process, especially when it involves high monthly payments.

· Don’t go alone. It is better to take your friend along with you. It will help you in understanding the critical loan terms easily.

· Shop for a shorter loan term. Don’t get distracted by promises of smaller monthly payments spread over a longer period of time because it will definitely harm your financial situation.

· Stick to your price range. When you have already made your budget, paying a little extra may cost you a lot in the end.

· Educate yourself. You should read all the loan terms before signing the dotted line. Ask questions, if needed.

· Always keep a copy of your loan contract with you. It should contain all the signatures and the details regarding the loan.

· Try to negotiate. As you have bad credit, you won’t be able to negotiate the terms of the auto loan, but you can always negotiate the purchase price of the car.

· Develop positive financial habits. You can do so by making regular payments towards the auto loan.

A poor credit score doesn’t mean that the lender will deprive you of an auto loan. It is possible to get an auto loan with such score when you develop positive financial habits. Remember your positive financial habits can help you build your credit score if you pay the full amount on time, every time.

SEO For Travel Agencies – Competing With the Travel Industry Titans

The last ten years have not been easy for independent travel agencies. Marketing costs have risen while legislation has regulated the industry. Despite these challenges, millions of consumers use Google and Yahoo! to plan their vacations and business trips. They book cruises; they reserve hotel accommodations; they purchase airline tickets. And many of these travelers want your help.

If you can position your website in front of them, your travel business will flourish. SEO and internet marketing for travel agencies offers a cost-effective solution for reaching these travelers.

Online Marketing For Travel Agencies Increases Your Visibility

Exposure is critical for independent travel agencies. Marketing efforts should be driven by a search engine optimization campaign that positions your agency as a seamless solution for travelers’ needs. This increases your visibility to your market. By placing your website in the top positions in Google and Yahoo!, our team of SEO experts can help you attract consumers who need your expertise.

Online marketing should focus on search engine optimization because more travelers than ever are using Google as their first planning resource. In fact, according to the Travel Industry Association, 70% of travelers go online to plan their trips. That trend will only grow. Our search engine optimization specialists can position your website in front of these travelers at the moment they search for your services.

Key Advantages Of SEO For Travel Agencies

In order to thrive, your travel business needs to generate results that are cost-effective and measurable. You also need timely exposure to a motivated target audience. These are the benefits of launching a search engine optimization campaign for travel agencies. Marketing efforts that are spearheaded by an SEO campaign help consumers find your company when they go online to plan their trips.

Internet Marketing For Travel Agencies Attracts Customers

Millions of travelers realize the industry titans cannot offer the finely-tuned travel plans provided by independent agents. These consumers are using Google and Yahoo! to find alternatives. This is the reason online marketing for travel agencies has become the most effective advertising channel for local agents. By using a search engine optimization campaign, they can compete with the industry leviathans. In fact, SEO for travel agencies blends the most potent elements of online promotion.

Driving Results With Search Engine Optimization

One of the reasons search engine optimization and internet marketing has become so popular is because the industry is so competitive. The titans have all but dominated the market (or, at least, that’s how it seems). Making matters worse, traditional advertising is costly and often fails to generate results.

By contrast, search engine optimization for travel agencies offers a cost-effective strategy for competing – and even trumping – the industry behemoths. And that’s where our team of SEO experts can help.

We have been creating effective SEO campaigns for our clients for over a decade. Due to our longstanding track record of success, noted search authority “Top SEOs” recently presented us with their coveted “Best In Search” award. We can duplicate this same level of success for your travel agency.

When we begin working together with you, we’ll close our doors to your local competitors. That allows us to focus our efforts on your search engine optimization campaign.

Health Center Staff In Lead Role Preparing Their Campuses for Pandemic Flu

It sounds like the plot of the next blockbuster movie. A third of the world’s population is struck down by a deadly virus that spreads across the globe so rapidly that there is no time to develop a vaccine. Up to half of those infected – even young, healthy adults – die. But as health professionals know, this scenario is not just a flight of fancy. It could be the very real effects of the next pandemic flu outbreak, particularly if H5N1 (also known as highly pathogenic avian flu) is the virus in question, and it is this knowledge that is pushing not just federal and state government but organizations and businesses throughout the world to develop a strategy to tackle it.

Within colleges and universities, the burden of pandemic flu planning is likely to fall upon many student health directors, even at institutions with environmental health and safety departments. John Covely, a consultant on pandemic flu planning and the co-author of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s pandemic plan, explains why this is so.

“Traditionally, emergency planning originates from public safety, or environment health and safety, but a communicable disease poses the biggest threat to students in group quarters. Thus, student health directors are often leading the emergency planning effort for the whole university, because the entire plan – not just the student health component – could be the difference in life or death for their students.”

The importance of having a campus-wide plan that is ready – not just in the preliminary stages – when the pandemic strikes is all the more clear when you consider that, unlike seasonal flu, H5N1 has an increased risk for the typical student demographic of young, healthy adults. The startlingly high mortality rate of up to 60 percent is partly due to a protein, also found in the strain of virus responsible for the 1918 pandemic flu outbreak, which causes a response in a healthy immune system known as a “cytokine storm”, often leading to respiratory failure and death.

Planning for such a massive and yet unpredictable event may seem a formidable task, but Dr. Anita Barkin, chair of the American College Health Association’s pandemic planning committee, counsels that those universities and colleges that have yet to formulate a pandemic plan shouldn’t feel overwhelmed by the work that lies before them. “Pandemic planning is about good emergency preparedness. The things we do to prepare for any emergency are the things we would do to prepare for pandemic flu,” she explains.

Although the tragic Virginia Tech shootings this spring were a different kind of emergency, the issues are similar to the issues faced in the event of a pandemic flu outbreak. Coordinating resources, communicating with everyone on campus and deciding at what stage classes should be called off are questions that have to be answered in most emergency situations. Take your pandemic planning one step at a time, advises Barkin.

“The first step is to find out whether there is an existing emergency plan on campus,” she says. “If there is, who is in charge of it? Health providers on campus should then take charge and begin to formulate the plan.”

There are many unknown factors, but build the framework of the plan first with the elements you can be sure of. Form a committee with all key areas represented, including executive leadership. ACHA’s Guidelines for Pandemic Planning provides a list as an example that may help you collate this. Identify the functions that will be critical in the case of a pandemic and the personnel on campus responsible for each of these, making sure there are enough people representing each function that should some become sick, the plan is not compromised. Identify decision makers, a chain of command, and what channels of communication are to be used. Finally, decide on the role of student health services. Many campuses will have the student health director as the key decision maker in the event of a pandemic, but for some it will be more appropriate for the student health director to have an advisory role instead. In any case, college health professionals will be crucial to the success of every plan.

The biggest question that is central to every campus-wide pandemic plan: when is the right time to send students home? Covely warns that universities cannot necessarily wait for cues from state public health departments before they make their decisions. “The university has to have its own in-depth criteria in advance of a pandemic, and the student health director should be very involved in developing those criteria.”

Barkin suggests looking back to the 1918 influenza epidemic for context.

“In 1918, the virus spread across the country in three to four weeks. If you think about the fact that the virus traveled from coast to coast in that short a time when the primary means of long-distance transport was the train, and then you think about how much more quickly we can travel today by plane, that timeline is going to be compressed significantly.”

In other words, don’t wait too long to send your students home. Nor should your trigger for this decision rely on the geographical proximity of the virus to your campus alone. Covely explains:

“Geographical proximity is not definitive enough in this age when in a single day, there are 50,000 passenger flights throughout the world,” he says. “Because New York City and Hong Kong have major international airports, epidemiologically, New York City is actually closer to Hong Kong than it is to Buffalo, so waiting to suspend classes until a confirmed case gets to your region, or within 500 miles, may be too late.”

The factors that will determine how early you make the call to send students home will center on the composition of your student population. If your students are mostly from in-state, they will probably be traveling home by car and so you can wait slightly longer before canceling classes and closing the campus down. If many students live a long way away and are going to need to use mass transportation, you may have to act more quickly or risk being swamped with very ill students at a time when the local hospitals will not have the resources to help.

There are three main elements that will shape the logistics and the scale of your plan, and help you figure out the best trigger to send students home. Remember that, as Barkin comments, “The longer you wait, the higher the rate of infection, the less chance of being able to get students home and the less likely you can manage the burden of disease.”

These factors are as follows:

Student demographics, particularly the number of students who live on campus and the number of non-local students who are likely to be dependent on care.

The size of your staff (taking into account that up to 50 percent may be sick at one time).
Your ability to stockpile enough basic supplies, including medications, as well as personal protective equipment such as respirators.

This is where things start to get more complicated, however. Most student health services can’t afford to stockpile many medical supplies. “ACHA is running a survey on pandemic planning,” reveals Barkin. “Of the schools that have responded, most have not stockpiled, or if they have, it’s not a lot.” This could clearly prove disastrous, and for many colleges is a manifestation of what Covely cites as one of the biggest challenges of pandemic planning for some universities: “getting buy-in from the executive leadership.” Pandemic planning is by no means a cost-free exercise.

One tip if you are facing resistance from campus decision-makers over spending money on pandemic planning is to emphasize the fact that once you’ve formulated a response to a possible pandemic, you will have a robust emergency response strategy that can be adapted to fit virtually any emergency, whether it’s evacuation in the event of wildfires, such as Pepperdine University faced recently, a terrorist threat, or an “active shooter”. Investment in, say, developing a Web site with emergency information and updates can be a public relations bonus and a reliable resource. Villanova University’s plan includes broadcasting SMS text messages and e-mails and using an emergency Web page for mass communication.

When you do know the scope of your resources, both human and financial, you can continue to flesh out your plan. Excellent resources can be found on ACHA’s . A tip from the experts: be wary of developing your plan in a vacuum. “I know of a school that didn’t know their gymnasium was being considered as a point of vaccination until they happened to find out in the course of an outreach program,” Barkin relates. “The local health department hadn’t informed them.” This is very obviously a benefit of starting a dialogue with your local health services: you find out what they have planned and you can also coordinate your plans to add value and decrease the number of unknown factors.

Dr. Mary McGonigle, director of the student health center at Villanova University, says that their dialogue with their local health department led to Villanova being assessed and labeled a “push” site, a location that is self-sufficient in this type of emergency. She explains:

“In the event of a pandemic, we’d go and pick up supplies from the county and then administer medicine to our Villanova community. That includes students, faculty and their families.”

Help from the county is a financial boon but being self-sufficient and staying local also lowers the risk of spreading the virus so rapidly. The dialogue helps your local health services too. If your local hospitals are likely to have a shortage of beds, they may want to use college dorms for surge capacity at the peak of a pandemic. In return, they may be able to offer you some resources, although research suggests that most hospitals have not had the budget to be able to stockpile effectively either.

Once you have your plan together, it’s important not just to file it away and forget about it. “Planning for a pandemic is very much a work in progress, but it is often hard to keep up the interest in reviewing and updating plans, especially when H5N1 activity drops out of the news,” explains Covely. Tabletop exercises are one way to test the effectiveness of a plan and a good way to maintain interest. Covely specializes in facilitating these tabletops and finds that they can significantly increase staff’s buy-in as well as providing useful discussion points.

“Used before the planning begins, tabletops provide a way of educating employees and getting them interested in developing continuity of operations plans,” he says. “They are excellent for post planning too, in order to test the plans. I am always amazed at the creative analysis and insight that comes from a tabletop.”

The ongoing and fluid nature of pandemic planning is very much evident in some of the complex and thorny issues that have no definitive answer. These may need to be revisited and rethought as scientific discoveries are made, as you approach a pandemic, and if your college’s resources change. One such issue is the availability of expensive antivirals. The federal government has announced that it is stockpiling them and coming up with a strategy for distribution, which might seem to take some of the financial pressure off student health services. Barkin however has a caveat. “I’m concerned that stockpiles would not be distributed in enough of a timely fashion to make an impact on the community. Katrina is a situation that has to come to mind.”

Even if you did manage to persuade campus decision-makers to invest budget in stockpiling antivirals, a potentially challenging feat, there’s a chance that they would be ineffective by the time a pandemic occurs, as overuse can cause the emergence of a resistant strain. Barkin explains that infectious disease experts are talking about using a treatment cocktail – Tamiflu plus one or two other agents – to protect against the emergence of resistant strains, but this would be prohibitively expensive for the average college health center.

Another ethical dilemma surrounding pandemic planning concerns who should get prepandemic vaccines. Scientists are developing vaccines based on the strain of avian flu that has been circulating in Asia, hoping that the vaccine would be enough of a match to combat the illness until a proper vaccine could be developed six months after the pandemic’s emergence. But supplies of this prepandemic vaccine will be limited.

“Some of the conversations around who should get these prepandemic vaccines are very complex,” says Barkin. “Should it be health care workers that get it, or public safety workers such as firemen? Should it be government officials, or the very young and elderly?” Recently, the federal government has announced a three-tiered approach to vaccination that it has developed in consultation with public focus groups and ethicists that places health care workers in the second tier. Whether your health center staff will receive the vaccine, whether it will be in a timely fashion, and how effective it will actually be, are all factors that will affect your pandemic plan greatly – and demonstrate how much of your planning has to leave room for the unknown.

One thing that is beyond question is the importance of student health services acting now. Formulating a pandemic plan may be a slow and ponderous task, but there’s one vital aspect that will slow the spread of a pandemic and can be tackled by your department immediately without getting tangled in red tape and endless meetings. Barkin elaborates:

“Every single student health service needs to be involved in educational outreach efforts to distribute information on the role of flu vaccinations, cough etiquette, when to come to work and when to stay at home if you are ill and the importance of creating a personal preparedness plan in the event of a pandemic.”

This public health education can be a collaborative effort with human resources and residence life staff. Covely agrees and even suggests extending the scope beyond campus boundaries. “It’s part of being a good and responsible neighbor to the community, and it has tremendous public relations benefits to the university,” he says.

The collaboration required in pandemic planning can build bridges, but be prepared for it also to be particularly challenging. McGonigle relates:

“At Villanova, we’re still in the stages of planning. We’ve done a lot. But I would say the most difficult part is trying to connect and communicate with all the different departments on campus and plan for all the different scenarios.”

Indeed, planning for all contingencies – not just the obvious problems of effectively treating the sick and minimizing the mortality rate, but also coping with disruptions to services and shortages of supplies caused by huge absenteeism and the ensuing breakdown in the transportation system, and questions such as whether to pay staff if the campus is shut down – has caused planning at many colleges and universities to take much longer than anticipated.

Pandemic planning is also dogged by a sense of unreality: could something this vast really happen? (The answer, as every health professional knows, is “yes”, and is a question of when and not if.) Media coverage of pandemic flu is patchy and focuses on sensational stories rather than the need for personal emergency preparedness. Because it’s not an issue in the forefront of the public’s mind, it’s sometimes hard to conjure up the necessary sense of urgency, particularly because there is always some issue on campus demanding more immediate attention. Barkin sympathizes, but has some sobering last words on the subject.

“Recently, the issue of pandemic flu has fallen off the radar,” she says. “We’ve been talking about it for two years and now there are other pressing issues that have pushed it to the back burner. But the issue of pandemics is not going to go away. We’ve had them throughout history and if you look at the patterns, we’re due for a pandemic soon. It may or may not be H5N1, and it may or may not be on the 1918 scale. What we cannot ignore, however, is the planning that’s needed, because in a pandemic, health centers and heath care providers will be looked to and expected to know how to respond.”

Used Cars – Not Just Any Used Auto Extended Warranty Plan Will Do

While companies that sell used cars to the public and offer used auto extended warranty plans for their vehicles are definitely the best places to buy used autos, make sure you read the fine print on the particular extended warranty plan you are buying. Some used auto extended warranties will contain exclusions that limit the seller’s liability when a second owner purchases a used auto.

The used auto aftermarket is a huge business and it is definitely a place where the old “buyer beware” caution applies. It is important that you do your homework, that you read the fine print and that you understand the differences between warranty programs that cover cars & trucks that may or may not have been used commercially and used autos used solely by individuals.

Before you purchase your used vehicle, check out the company that stands behind the warranty. How long have they been in business? What’s their track record in paying off claims? Is it the same company that has done the evaluation of the used vehicle’s current condition?

Companies like 1SourceAutoWarranty, Warranty Direct, Warranties4Wheels, E Warranty Solutions, AA Auto Warranty and Warranty Warehouse that have been around for quite some time, have sterling reputations and deal extensively in the auto aftermarket are companies you can rely on for honesty, trustworthiness and security.

Make sure when you buy that used auto and you select the perfect extended warranty program for you that you get the plan that fits your vehicle and driving style so that you get the security that you paid for.

International Travel Health Insurance – Peace of Mind Away From Home

International travel brings with it the opportunity to see the world’s great sights, learn about different cultures, and perhaps put foreign language skills to the test. Overseas journeys can be thrilling adventures, though unforeseen events have the ability to cause greater disruption and trauma than similar occurrences at home would. The decision to purchase international travel health insurance can provide great peace of mind which comes from the knowledge that any expenses arising from unexpected medical situations will be covered.

Travelers engaging in adventurous activities such as scuba diving, rafting and mountain climbing may be surprised to learn that the medical insurance policy that covers them under typical circumstances does not extend to injuries sustained while engaging in unusually high risk physical activities. When venturing to nations with nationalized health care, travelers should realize that free or low cost healthcare services typically are provided only to citizens and not to foreigners. Overseas medical services providers may refuse or be unable to negotiate with the traveler’s domestic insurance company, and therefore require prepayment for services rendered. Further, should a traveler be unable to secure sufficient treatment abroad, they may find it difficult to marshal the resources to pay for transport home. Even those domestic insurance policies providing “customary and reasonable” medical costs while traveling abroad may decline payment for medical evacuations out of the country, which can run into several thousands of dollars. Unforeseen circumstances such as these make international travel health insurance a most prudent purchase for frequent adventurers.

Aimed at compensating travelers for unanticipated medical and health related expenditures while away from home, international travel health insurance is offered in a variety of different forms, depending on the length, nature, and specific circumstances of the trip or trips involved. It is typically possible to purchase short term coverage simultaneously with the booking of a particular travel event, or alternatively, a more expansive, ongoing policy may be available. Policies are typically offered by travel insurance firms, travel agents themselves, cruise lines, excursion operators, and even conventional insurance companies.

International travel health insurance policies are often further categorized by the type of traveler to be covered. Students, business travelers, leisure vacationers, adventure seekers, cruise ship patrons are all types of travelers to which specific types of coverage may be tailored. Among the common situations covered by this type of insurance are general medical expenses, accidental death or injury benefits, and even overseas funeral costs. Emergency dental treatment is included in many policies. Pregnancy related medical expenses are often included in this type of coverage, as long as the travel is within the traveler’s first trimester. Additional insurance may be required to assure coverage for pregnancy expenses after the first trimester, expenses relating to preexisting conditions, participation in high risk activities or sports, and high risk destinations. Common exclusions for this type of insurance include some preexisting medical conditions and injuries and incidents related to drug or alcohol use.