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Blue Shield Announces Guided Imagery Program to Help Members Have an Easier Surgery & Recovery

(San Francisco, CA - May 4, 2000) - In a groundbreaking move for a managed care company, Blue Shield of California has begun offering guided imagery recordings to PPO members scheduled for major surgery.

Through words, music and images, guided imagery helps people tap into their natural power to relax and heal. The technique is one of many types of complementary and alternative medicine that have become popular with millions of Americans. Some hospitals have been offering guided imagery to patients facing surgery, but Blue Shield is the first health plan to develop a comprehensive pre-surgical guided imagery program for members.

Blue Shield PPO members scheduled for one of about 90 major surgeries now receive - at no extra cost - an instruction letter on guided imagery, with a 36-minute audiotape and compact disc. The letter explains the benefits of guided imagery and offers tips on how to use it. To be most effective, guided imagery should be used repeatedly prior to and after surgery. Those who choose to use the recordings may also receive additional support from a nurse health coach who can provide information about how best to use the technique and also answer general questions about surgery and recovery.

"We want to support members who are interested in using therapies that complement traditional health care," Blue Shield Chief Medical Officer Jeffrey A. Rideout, MD, FACP. "This program responds to those consumers, with the assurance that Blue Shield's standards for quality are being met."

Before approving the program, Blue Shield performed an extensive review of research on the effectiveness of guided imagery in pre-surgical preparation. A committee of medical experts from the University of California at San Francisco and the University of California at Los Angeles found sufficient evidence that guided imagery can decrease surgical complications, post-operative pain, and psychological anxiety before and after surgery.

The guided imagery recording chosen by Blue Shield was produced by Health Journeys, which was founded by therapist and author Belleruth Naparstek. The voice on the recording is that of Naparstek. The recording was used in clinical studies at the Cleveland Clinic (1996) and the University of California at Davis Medical Center (1998) and demonstrated better outcomes in comparison to other similar guided imagery recordings.

"We are committed to meeting consumers' needs in mind-body health," says Bruce Bodaken, Chairman and CEO of Blue Shield of California. "This program supports our members' desire to utilize complementary therapies and helps members become more active participants in their health, particularly at a time when they are most vulnerable."

Blue Shield plans to expand the program to include HMO and Medicare members.

Background on Blue Shield of California

Blue Shield of California, an independent member of the Blue Shield Association, is one of the state's leading health care companies, with 2 million HMO and PPO members and $3 billion in annual revenue. The not-for-profit health plan was founded in San Francisco in 1939 as the nation's first medical service prepayment plan.