Category Archives: Health data

For AHCJ members: Access data about medical education, training

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.

Photo: Mercy Health via Flickr

In its ongoing effort to shed light on physician residency programs, AHCJ is announcing a new benefit for members: Access to national rankings calculated based on 50,000 peer nominations from board-certified physicians, with geographic weighting.

Last summer, AHCJ called for more transparency about the accreditation of physician residency programs, so the public can be better informed about the quality of graduate medical education programs in their communities.

In a letter sent to the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, AHCJ praised the group for having a website that includes accreditation decisions for institutions and their individual training programs. But AHCJ asked ACGME to publish additional information, including why individual programs and institutions have favorable or less-than-favorable accreditation status and the percentage of residents who pass their board exams.

While ACGME declined to provide that additional information, AHCJ has worked with Doximity Inc. to provide members the first comprehensive national research on residency programs. Continue reading

Precision Medicine Initiative: Some quick resources

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

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

The White House has announced its anticipated “Precision Medicine Initiative,” which it describes as an “emerging field of medicine that takes into account individual differences in people’s genes, microbiomes, environments, and lifestyles – making possible more effective, targeted treatments for diseases like cancer and diabetes. ”

Health Journalism 2014 featured a panel about personalized medicine and the presentations from “Getting personal: The medical and ethical challenges of using genetic information” may offer some story ideas and considerations for reporters who are explaining President Barack Obama’s proposal.  Continue reading

DC journalists dig into secrets behind AMA’s physician payment committee

Joseph Burns

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health insurance. He welcomes questions and suggestions on insurance resources and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

A secretive committee of the American Medical Association exaggerates how much physician time and effort is involved in performing many medical procedures, according to an analysis of the committee’s work by journalists at The Washington Post.

That exaggeration skews payment in favor or physician specialists and at the expense of primary care physicians, according to the article by the Post’s Dan Keating (@dtkeating) and Peter Whoriskey (@PeterWhoriskey).

The claim that the committee overstates the time involved to do many procedures has been reported previously. What is unusual about Keating and Whoriskey’s analysis of the AMA’s 31-member Relative Value Update Committee is that they calculated the committee’s estimates of the time involved for physicians to do many procedures and found the numbers to be off by as much as 100 percent in favor of specialist physicians. Continue reading

Taking a different look at readmission metrics, penalties

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.

One of the high-profile programs within the Affordable Care Act is the drive to reduce preventable hospital readmissions among the Medicare population. The program focuses on fee-for-service patients who came back to the hospital within 30 days. Hospitals in the third year of the program face a fine of up to 3 percent of their Medicare payments. Kaiser Health News analyzed the most recent CMS hospital data, and found more than 2,600 hospitals faced penalties in the last round and could lose $400 million.

Reducing unnecessary hospitalizations is a good idea, pretty much a slam-dunk quality move.

But is the readmissions program using the right metrics? Are hospitals that are doing all the right things cutting both readmissions and admissions – and therefore facing penalties because the proportion isn’t dropping, the readmission rate is the same share of the total admissions? Some new research suggests that may be the case. As Joanne Lynn, M.D., a geriatrician and prominent health policy researcher put it (and I’m paraphrasing), it’s the denominator, stupid. Continue reading

Lindberg, NLM’s health informatics pioneer, to retire

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

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

don-lindberg

National Library of MedicineNLM Director Dr. Donald A.B. Lindberg, with artwork inspired by NLM’s Visible Human Project.

Don Lindberg, M.D., who has served as director of the National Library of Medicine for more than 30 years, will retire at the end of March 2015.

In a statement, Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Institutes of Health, described Lindberg as “an expert and groundbreaking innovator in the world of information technology, artificial intelligence, computer-aided medical diagnosis, and electronic health records.”

Lindberg, under whose tenure the AHCJ-NLM Health Journalism Fellowships were developed, was the first president of the American Medical Informatics Association. The organization says that many of its members “have benefitted from his strong leadership in training programs, research activities, and educational programs.” The AMIA recognizes his contributions to the field with its annual Donald A.B. Lindberg Award for Innovations in Informatics.

Collins described many of Lindberg’s contributions, many of which are tools regularly used by health journalists, with some historical perspective:

Don has created programs that changed fundamentally the way biomedical information is collected, shared, and analyzed. Think about it-when Don began, NLM had no electronic journals in its collection, few people owned personal computers, and even fewer had access to the Internet. He introduced numerous landmark projects such as free Internet access to MEDLINE via PubMed, MedlinePlus for the general public, the Visible Human Project, ClinicalTrials.gov, the Unified Medical Language System, and more. Don also created the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). NCBI has been a focal point for “Big Data” in biomedicine for decades, providing rapid access to the data generated by the Human Genome Project and now to massive amounts of genetic sequence data generated from evolving high-throughput sequencing technologies. GenBank, PubMed Central, and dbGaP are just some of the many NCBI databases that support and enable access to the results of research funded by NIH and many other organizations.

According to the NLM website, Lindberg is the author of three books, several book chapters and more than 200 articles and reports. He has served as editor and editorial board member of nine publications, including the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Latest Leapfrog scores show hospitals need to improve patient safety

Joseph Burns

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health insurance. He welcomes questions and suggestions on insurance resources and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

A new report from the Leapfrog Group couldn’t be more timely given the attention hospitals have received recently on the need to improve patient safety, particularly infection-control procedures.

hospital corridor

Image by Julie Kertesz via flickr.

On Wednesday, Leapfrog released a report showing a lack of progress on patient outcomes and a decline on certain patient-safety measures, such as preventing surgical site infections during major colon surgery.

The data also show that hospitals made improvements in processes and safe practices, such as instituting hand-hygiene policies and physician staffing in intensive care units. For the safety scores of 2,500 general hospitals, Leapfrog assigns A, B, C, D and F grades based on a hospital’s ability to prevent errors, injuries and infections.

Continue reading

Use caution with new data on doctor payments from drug, device companies

Charles Ornstein

About Charles Ornstein

Charles Ornstein is a senior reporter with ProPublica in New York. The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer is a member and past president of the Association of Health Care Journalists' board of directors and a member of its Right to Know Committee.

Photo by **Mary** via Flickr

Photo by **Mary** via Flickr

This article originally appeared on ProPublica’s website.

The government’s new website on drug and device company ties to doctors will be incomplete and may be misleading – for now.

The government’s release today of a trove of data detailing drug and device companies’ payments to doctors has been widely hailed as a milestone for transparency. But it is also something else: a very limited window into the billions in industry spending. Before you dive in and search for a specific doctor, here are five caveats to keep in mind: Continue reading

How a secretive panel uses data that distorts doctors’ pay

Joseph Burns

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health insurance. He welcomes questions and suggestions on insurance resources and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

Image by 401(K) 2012 via Flickr

Image by 401(K) 2012 via Flickr

One factor that makes health care costs difficult to manage is the system the federal government and health insurers use to decide how to pay physicians for the various services they deliver.

In an article in The Washington Post, “How a secretive panel uses data that distorts doctors pay,” journalists Peter Whoriskey and Dan Keating explain that a committee of the American Medical Association meets in private every year to develop values for most of the services doctors perform. The AMA is the chief lobbying group for doctors.

Read more about this secretive panel and the problems that Keating and Whoriskey identified wtih the process.

AHCJ disappointed with ACGME’s response on transparency

Charles Ornstein

About Charles Ornstein

Charles Ornstein is a senior reporter with ProPublica in New York. The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer is a member and past president of the Association of Health Care Journalists' board of directors and a member of its Right to Know Committee.

ACGME-Response8-12-2014-1The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education has rejected a request from AHCJ to publicly release additional information about the successes and failures of physician training programs nationwide.

Earlier this month, AHCJ called upon ACGME to release details about residency programs with less than full accreditation, as well as the rates at which graduates of residency programs pass their board certification examinations. ACGME posts decisions on favorable or less-than-favorable accreditation status but not the reasons for them.

Replying to AHCJ’s Aug. 5 letter, ACGME executive director Thomas J. Nasca, M.D., wrote that the organization would not provide the requested information, citing the confidentiality of ACGME’s review and decision process.

AHCJ president Karl Stark said he was disappointed by ACGME’s response. Continue reading

AHCJ data include 16,806 nursing home deficiencies

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.

AHCJ’s latest update to nursing home inspection data gives members three years of the most severe deficiencies found during inspections and the current star ratings assigned by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The data could be a good starting point for reporters who want to pursue authoritative stories about their local nursing homes.

The data now contains 16,806 such deficiencies as recorded by CMS. Deficiencies are characterized by their severity, “A” being the least severe and “L” being the most severe. AHCJ pruned down the data to include just the most severe of the deficiencies, letters “G” through “L.” These range from an “isolated incident of actual harm” to “widespread immediate jeopardy to resident health or safety.”

Under its star rating system, CMS gives nursing homes between one and five stars. According to the CMS ratings web site “nursing homes with 5 stars are considered to have much above average quality and nursing homes with 1 star are considered to have quality much below average.” Each nursing home is given an overall rating, as well as three specific ratings: health inspections, staffing and quality measures.

The AHCJ version of nursing home data is derived from a large file that is split up for easier use by members.