Author Archives: Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of, coordinates social media efforts of AHCJ and assists with the editing and production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

$200,000 grant strengthens project-based reporting fellowship

AHCJ Reporting Fellowships on Health Care PerformanceThe Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism, the educational arm of the Association of Health Care Journalists, has been awarded a grant of $200,000 to continue a fellowship program that helps journalists understand and report on the performance of local health care markets and the U.S. health system as a whole.

The AHCJ Reporting Fellowships on Health Care Performance were launched in 2010.

The program, supported by The Commonwealth Fund, a New York-based private foundation, allows experienced print, broadcast and online reporters to pursue significant reporting projects over a year’s time related to the U.S. health care system. The reporters concentrate on the performance of health care systems – or significant parts of those systems – locally, regionally or nationally. The fellows are able to examine policies, practices and outcomes, as well as the roles of various stakeholders.

“Too often, the finances and inner workings of hospitals and health systems are black boxes,” said Karl Stark, president of the AHCJ board of directors and the health editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer“Through this generous grant, the fellowship provides reporters with the resources and tools to shine light into dark places and pursue stories that serve the public interest.”

Read more about the program and the grant.

Nine journalists receive AHCJ Regional Health Journalism Fellowships

The Association of Health Care Journalists has named the 2014-15 class of the Regional Health Journalism Fellowship, an annual fellowship program for reporters and editors across the United States.

The program, which changes regions each year, will focus this year on journalists from the South Central United States, namely Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. The program begins next month. The first class of fellows came from the northern Midwest and Plains. The second class of fellows came from the Southeast. And the most recent class of fellows came from the Western region of the country.

“This is one of the most important programs we offer,” said AHCJ Executive Director Len Bruzzese. “We had many fine applicants because more and more journalists recognize the need to take charge of their own career development, especially in building their expertise in health coverage. We look forward to working with them and appreciate the support of their newsrooms.”

Read more about the program and who was chosen for this year’s class.

First medical journalism fellow named at MedPage Today

In an effort to teach health care professionals reporting skills and bring experts into the newsroom, MedPage Today has named Shara Yurkiewicz, M.D. as its first medical journalism fellow.

Yurkiewicz recently graduated from Harvard Medical School. She earned her undergraduate degree at Yale University and has been an AAAS Mass Media Science and Engineering Fellow at the Los Angeles Times and a regular blogger for Scientific American. According to a press release, she plans to apply for residencies in rehabilitation medicine and make journalism an important part of her career.

“Lawrence Altman, M.D., was the first full-time physician reporter to work for a major newspaper when he joined The New York Times in 1969, but more and more, news organizations are looking to staff their ranks with reporters who have particular expertise. What better way to meet that need than by helping train the next generation of doctor-journalists in rigorous evidence-based reporting?” said Ivan Oransky, M.D., vice president and global editorial director of MedPage Today.

“And while we’re at it, we get to add the perspective of a doctor-in-training to a newsroom producing content for health care professionals.”

MedPage Today covers clinical and health policy news for health care professionals.

Video shares tips for using data to cover health reform

Yesterday, Joanne Kenen shared a guide on using data to cover the Affordable Care Act as well as Charles Ornstein’s Storified account of the recent meeting of AHCJ’s New York City chapter.

Today we have the video of that event, where Katherine Hempstead, Ph.D., of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation discussed the highlights of six databases on the health reform law.

The databases can answer many questions, such as whether consumers are having trouble paying their sky-high deductibles or whether waiting lines are growing at doctors’ offices. Want to know how your state exchange differs from others? This data can help. Hempstead also offers ideas for stories that can be mined from the data no matter your technical abilities.

Updated data available for covering nursing homes

Every year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid issues a list of troubled nursing homes as part of its Special Focus Facility Initiative. CMS released an updated list on June 19 as a PDF and AHCJ has posted the list as a series of web pages and has made them available to download as Excel spreadsheets.

The initiative is intended to address nursing homes that cycle in and out of compliance. Homes in this program are visited by survey teams twice as frequently as other nursing homes. This list includes nursing homes added to the SFF initiative and updates the status of homes already in the program.

This year, 15 homes in 14 states were added to the list. Sixteen others were found to have “failed to show significant improvement,” 23 were deemed to have shown improvement, 33 have “graduated” from the program and four are no longer participating in Medicare/Medicaid.

Angelo Fichera of The Philadelphia Inquirer recently reported on one nursing home that will likely close after spending three years in the SFF Initiative, noting that CMS has not seen an improvement in care:

CMS expects that after two years on the watch list, nursing homes will either improve and “graduate” from the program; have funding terminated; or be granted an extension to improve because of “promising progress,” according to the agency.

To round out your reporting on nursing homes, AHCJ just updated its version of CMS’s Nursing Home Compare database, which includes details of the most severe deficiencies found during nursing home inspections for the past three years. AHCJ posted separate files covering the star ratings for nursing homes – from 1 to 5 – based on quality, inspection results, staffing and overall ratings.

Tip sheets

Past coverage

AHCJ invites members to run for board

Each year, members in AHCJ’s professional category elect members for the association board of directors. Six of the 12 director positions come up for election each year for two-year terms. Incumbent board members are allowed to run for re-election.

Service on the board is a serious commitment. It has commensurate rewards (but no pay). In addition to participating in two in-person board meetings each year and occasional conference calls, board members are responsible for making decisions about association policies and statements, as well as working with the executive director on training projects, financial matters and other efforts to achieve AHCJ’s strategic goals.

Board members take on committee duties and contribute to association activities, including fundraising, advocacy, helping plan sessions at training events, membership outreach and writing/editing contributions. They may be asked to play a role in other association projects that arise.

Read more about serving on AHCJ’s board and how to declare your candidacy. If running for the board isn’t for you, here are some other ways to get involved with the association.

New AHCJ chapter features discussion of costs, financial transparency

Ron ShinkmanDylan H. Roby, Ph.D.

Ron ShinkmanDylan H. Roby, Ph.D.

Dylan H. Roby, Ph.D., spoke at the first event held by the Southern California chapter of the Association of Health Care Journalists on April 24 at the Los Angeles Times. He discussed health care price and financial transparency, and whether it can control spending.

Roby, an assistant professor of health policy and management in the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and director of the Health Economics and Evaluation Research Program within the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, focused on several issues during his presentation:

  • Prices paid by patients and consumers versus provider charges
  • Facility charges vs. professional fees
  • Negotiations and price setting by government payers
  • Different payment models (capitation vs. fee-for-service with discounting).

Continue reading