Tag Archives: patients

It’s not always easy to find the right case history to flesh out your reporting

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 determinants@healthjournalism.org.

Photo: Broad Bean Media via Flickr

Photo: Broad Bean Media via Flickr

Where would journalists be without good tips?

It wasn’t long after the AHCJ website increased its focus on LGBT health issues, as part of its core topic section on social determinants of health, that a tip floated in with kudos for some pieces that Lisa Esposito of U.S. News & World Report had written on the issue (notably, the tip was from one of her editors). Continue reading

Journalists learn about efforts to improve diagnostic process

Carla K. Johnson

About Carla K. Johnson

Carla K. Johnson (@CarlaKJohnson) is a medical writer at The Associated Press and has covered health and medicine since 2001. A former member of AHCJ's board of directors, she leads the Chicago AHCJ chapter.

Photo: Carla K. Johnson(from left) Paul Epner of the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine, Dr. Karen Cosby of Rush University Medical School, and Dr. David Liebovitz of Northwestern Memorial Healthcare. spoke to Chicago's AHCJ chapter.

Photo: Carla K. Johnson(from left) Paul Epner of the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine, Dr. Karen Cosby of Rush University Medical School, and Dr. David Liebovitz of Northwestern Memorial Healthcare. spoke to Chicago’s AHCJ chapter.

If you’ve read Dr. Lisa Sanders’ “Diagnosis” column in The New York Times Magazine, you know the process of identifying a patient’s problem can be fraught with opportunities for error. You also know diagnosis is rich territory for dramatic storytelling.

For health care journalists, it’s a great time to write about the topic. Errors in diagnosis are receiving new attention because of the recently released Institute of Medicine report “Improving Diagnosis in Health Care.” It’s part of the landmark “Quality Chasm Series” that produced the “To Err is Human” report in 2000 and the “Crossing the Quality Chasm” report in 2001. Continue reading

Spotlight on sepsis: Reporting on ‘dirty little hospital horror’

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.

Cheryl Clark

Cheryl Clark

As senior quality editor for HealthLeaders Media for more than six years, Cheryl Clark wrote more than 1,300 stories about hospitals’ efforts to improve quality and safety and related issues.

Rates of sepsis seemed to be one more dirty little hospital horror to explore, one that the Joint Commission said cost hospitals about $16.7 billion annually. Yet hospitals’ efforts to tackle it seemed hidden behind improvement initiatives attracting more attention, such as reducing hospital-acquired infections, and preventable readmissions, lowering emergency room wait times and raising patient experience scores.

The story she wrote for the June 2014 issue of HealthLeaders’ print magazine, on how U.S. hospitals are improving recognition and treatment of sepsis — which is diagnosed in 750,000 patients a year and kills 40 percent — won the 2015 National Institute of Health Care Management prize in the trade print category. They said the story was “most likely to save a life.”

In a new article for AHCJ, she explains how she did her reporting, despite a lack of data and sources who didn’t want to talk. Read more.

Verghese offers commentary on healing, even when he can’t cure #ahcj15

Joanne Silberner

About Joanne Silberner

Joanne Silberner (@jsilberner) is a freelance reporter and artist-in-residence at the University of Washington in Seattle. For 18 years, she covered health issues for NPR. She is attending Health Journalism 2015 as an AHCJ-Academic Health Journalism Fellow.

Photo: Kris Hickman/AHCJAbraham Verghese

Photo: Kris Hickman/AHCJAbraham Verghese talked about the healing power of personal attention and bedside medicine.

I used to be a Verghese virgin. I’d dipped into some of the Stanford physician’s New Yorker stories and read a few of his book reviews, but I hadn’t curled up with his nonfiction books that deal with medical care –“My Own Country” or “The Tennis Partner” – or, for that matter, his novels.

So I came to his speech on Thursday night at the Health Journalism 2015 kickoff session not knowing what to expect. Continue reading

Reporter examines ethics of interviewing patients

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism, and he has blogged for Covering Health ever since.

After joining a panel on media, ethics and trauma at the Anxiety Disorders Association of America’s annual conference, New Orleans Times Picayune reporter John Pope found himself questioning the sourcing practices he’d developed and followed during almost 20 years on the health beat.

As he writes for the Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma, he had no idea of the legion of ethical dilemmas each time he, like countless other health journalists around the country, simply called a specialist in a relevant field and asked for help finding patients who would be willing to talk.

At the panel, Pope suddenly found himself confronted with the questions his innocent requests were raising on the other end of the line. I’ve reproduced his list below, as it’s pretty thought-provoking material.

  • Would a therapist be exerting undue influence by asking a patient to speak to a reporter?
  • Would the patient feel obligated to comply as a condition of treatment?
  • If the therapist were present during the interview, would that inhibit the patient?
  • If the therapist weren’t present, would the patient exaggerate to help the reporter get a terrific story?
  • Would talking to a reporter reopen psychic wounds if no professional were on hand to guide the conversation?

They are questions that defy easy answers. Many physicians assembled even said that they viewed allowing a patient to speak to a reporter as “unethical in all circumstances.” Nevertheless, a few folks provided suggestions such as posting solicitations for sources in waiting rooms, thus allowing reporters to bypass the doctor-patient relationship, or perhaps asking physicians to maintain source lists of willing and qualified patients.

Neither seems practical or satisfactory on deadline, and in the end their may really be no solution other than Pope’s own, that physicians and reporters form long-term relationships and build the sort of trust necessary in delicate situations.