Health reporters should be asking the hospitals they cover plenty of in-depth questions about their star ratings and other collected quality measures. But they should not assume that those measures reflect the hospital’s true performance.
How often has this happened to you? Over the transom comes a report you believe will be the basis for a section-front story or maybe warrant page one. Many times, you’re right. You read the report, collect the highlights, conduct a few interviews, and fire off the story on deadline.
However, occasionally what you thought might be a solid report leaves important questions unanswered. Continue reading
For many years, health insurers have worked to keep patients out of hospitals, the costliest care setting. At the same time, hospital administrators have worked to keep heads in the beds, as they say.
In this long tug-of-war, Chicago area hospitals appear to be losing at an alarming rate, according to a comprehensive analysis of data from the Illinois Department of Health, and other sources, conducted by reporter Kristen Schorsch of Crain’s Chicago Business. For a special report published earlier this year, she learned what hospital administrators had already known: that Illinois hospitals were over bedded and operating at about 40 percent of capacity. Schorsch’s special project is impressive, not only for the depth of her reporting but also for the excellent presentation that Crain’s made with the data she collected. Continue reading
In January 2012, EMTs took Ignacio Alaniz by helicopter to Memorial Hermann Hospital, one of the largest nonprofit medical centers in Texas. Alaniz had been working underneath his Buick Century, trying to get it started. When it rolled over him, he suffered a punctured lung, nine fractured ribs and a broken arm.
“By the time the helicopter landed, he was already $12,196.37 in debt,” wrote Dianna Wray, a staff writer for the Houston Press. Her article about Alaniz, “Getting Stuck: Uninsured Patients Slammed with Lawsuits by Not-for-Profit Hospital,” was recognized as one of the best examples of health journalism in the business (small) category in AHCJ’s Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism. In a new “How I did it” article, Wray explains how her reporting led her to many more cases of patients being sued for medical debt and some of the reaction the story generated. Continue reading
AHCJ has updated its HospitalInspections.org website and the downloadable version of the data to include reports from most of 2013. The database – obtained from the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services – now includes psychiatric hospital complaint-based inspection reports. Previous versions included only acute-care and critical access hospitals.
The database includes reports about deficiencies cited during complaint inspections throughout the United States since Jan. 1, 2011. The new records include June through September, with a handful of October reports. It does not include results of routine inspections or those of long-term care hospitals. It also does not include hospital responses to deficiencies cited during inspections. The website explains how to obtain that information.
The update added 2,976 records with inspection details, giving the database a total of 9,152 records. Some state health departments and CMS regional offices have lagged in uploading deficiency reports to the agency’s main database. CMS has identified the hospitals with missing reports, and they are labeled as such on hospitalinspections.org. CMS has committed to working with its regional offices and state counterparts to speed the uploading of inspection reports so that the public has access to this important information. The updated database includes 429 inspections lacking details.
AHCJ launched the free, searchable news application in March. The inspection reports have been configured by AHCJ to be easily searchable by keyword, city, state and hospital name. The website is open to anyone, but only AHCJ members have access to a downloadable version and additional resources to help users understand what is being reported and what is not. These caveats are important for putting the information into context.