Category Archives: Health data

For AHCJ members: Comparison tool for hospital Medicare charges

Jeff Porter

About Jeff Porter

Jeff Porter is the special projects director for AHCJ and plays a lead role in planning conferences, workshops and other training events. He also leads the organization's data collection and data instruction efforts.

downloading-and-uploading-data-iconAHCJ just updated its version of Medicare inpatient charge data covering hospitals across the United States.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has updated its data, showing what hospitals charge Medicare for the same treatment or procedure. Government data files include bills submitted by 3,500 hospitals for the 100 most commonly performed inpatient treatments in federal fiscal years 2011 through 2014. This allows a basis for some local or regional comparisons and a starting point for stories on hospital costs and services. Continue reading

What journalists should know about hospital ratings

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in Kaiser Health News, The Atlantic.com, New America Media, AARP.com and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health, Media & Policy at Hunter College in New York City, and co-produces HealthStyles for WBAI-FM/Pacifica Radio.

PhotoJoel Dinda via Flickr

Photo: Joel Dinda via Flickr

Journalists should take hospital ratings with a healthy dose of skepticism, according to experts at a recent AHCJ New York chapter event. Simply looking at an institution’s overall rating is just the start. Reporting that without understanding what’s being rated and how “success” is measured does a disservice to your audience.

Ratings are far from perfect and are ever evolving. That leaves journalists in kind of a quandary, noted chapter president Trudy Lieberman. “What do we do about the ratings, how do we judge them, how do we use them in our stories and which ones should we use?” Continue reading

Firearm data resources for reporting on the Orlando mass shooting

Tara Haelle

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

Photo: Pia Christensen/AHCJU.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has launched a campaign to address the epidemic of opioid addiction.

Photo: Pia Christensen/AHCJU.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, M.D., spoke about gun violence as a public health issue at Health Journalism 2016. Click here to see his comments.

In light of the mass shooting in Orlando, many journalists covering the event will need access to statistics on firearms, legislation, past mass shootings and related information to add context to their posts. It’s often challenging to find this information, and all of the reported data has flaws in methodology or data collection.

Even though it can be tricky to find reliable stats related to firearms and firearm injuries and deaths, journalists can compile a pretty good big picture by visiting several sites and pooling their data. Here are some data resources compiled from AHCJ’s Medical Studies Core Topic. Continue reading

Review of EPA data leads USA Today to towns with contaminated water

Susan Heavey

About Susan Heavey

Susan Heavey, (@susanheavey) a Washington, D.C.-based journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on social determinants of health and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on resources and tip sheets at susan@healthjournalism.org.

Photo: Ryan Garza, USA Today NetworkLee Anne Walters of Flint, Mich., pours gallons of bottled water into a bucket and pan to warm up for her twin sons to take a weekly bath. Her son, Gavin, 4, looking on, has been diagnosed with lead poisoning. The photograph ran as part of USA Today’s investigation into lead levels nationwide, beyond the crisis in the Detroit suburb.

Photo: Ryan Garza, USA Today NetworkLee Anne Walters of Flint, Mich., pours gallons of bottled water into a bucket and pan to warm up for her twin sons to take a weekly bath. Her son, Gavin, 4, looking on, has been diagnosed with lead poisoning. The photograph ran as part of USA Today’s investigation into lead levels nationwide, beyond the crisis in the Detroit suburb.

Yes, database websites can seem clunky, and government data can seem hopelessly riddled with errors.

But searching, downloading and analyzing it – specifically EPA records on drinking water – led USA Today to a blockbuster front-page story that not only drew attention to the threat of lead contamination beyond the crisis in Flint, Mich., but also stirred residents to action.

Mark Nichols, who shared the byline with Alison Young at the paper, was the force behind the number crunching. Continue reading

Turn to new tip sheet before writing about drug prices

Joanne Kenen

About Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen, (@JoanneKenen) the health editor at Politico, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on health reform resources and tip sheets at joanne@healthjournalism.org.

Photo: pixxiestails via Flickr

Photo: pixxiestails via Flickr

Drug prices have become a hot topic – and a significant source of the ongoing challenges to achieving affordable premiums and out-of-pocket costs in both Affordable Care Act exchange plans and employer-sponsored coverage. Drug costs are now the single largest health care concern of Americans across the political spectrum, according to some polls.

But it can be hard to know where to go to find out information about drug pricing and drug value (which aren’t the same thing). Continue reading