Tag Archives: records

Reporter’s work pushes regulators, legislators to act on opioids

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: Sam Owens, Charleston Gazette-MailEric Eyre’s investigative series, Painkiller Profiteers, chronicled massive pain pill shipments to West Virginia. This shows the cremated ashes of a West Virginia woman who died from a drug overdose.

Lack of work, educational gaps, despair, overprescribing – there’s a host of reasons behind the nation’s opioid crisis. It may seem daunting to reporters who want to nail down the epidemic’s causes, but sometimes you just have to keep digging – literally.

West Virginia reporter Eric Eyre realized something was off when, during a trip to the state pharmacy board, he began digging through boxes filled with faxes from drug wholesalers reporting suspicious pharmacy activity. Continue reading

A jumping-off point for reporting on hospital interoperability

Rebecca Vesely

About Rebecca Vesely

Rebecca Vesely is AHCJ's topic leader on health information technology and a freelance writer. She has written about health IT since the late 1990s for a variety of publications.

Coinciding with its annual meeting, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology issued a data brief on the state of interoperability for hospitals. It’s a great jumping-off point for journalists to ask questions about the ability of critical care providers in their communities to share information about patients.

The good news: Continue reading

Journalists get guidance on navigating HIPAA rules #ahcj15

Sheila Hagar

About Sheila Hagar

Sheila Hagar (@ubsheilahagar) is a columnist, blogger and reporter for the Walla Walla (Wash.) Union-Bulletin newspaper. She attended Health Journalism 2015 as an AHCJ-Rural Health Journalism Fellow.

Pia Christensen/AHCJJan Emerson-Shea, vice president of external affairs for the California Hospital Association, guides journalists in how to work with hospitals and patient privacy laws at Health Journalism 2015.

Pia Christensen/AHCJJan Emerson-Shea, vice president of external affairs for the California Hospital Association, guides journalists in how to work with hospitals and patient privacy laws at Health Journalism 2015.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act was enacted nearly 20 years ago to make reporters gnash their teeth. Not quite, presenters at Health Journalism 2015 in Santa Clara, Calif., told their audience.

HIPAA, as it was birthed into law in 1996, was intended to make it easier for people to keep their health insurance when they change jobs. The law set standards for the electronic exchange of patient information, including protecting the privacy of such records. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued the Privacy Rule to implement that aspect of the law, and its Office of Civil Rights is in charge of enforcing it.

The Privacy Rule, which went into effect in April 2003, has made it more difficult for reporters to get information about individuals’ health care, such as the names and condition of accident victims. Hospital employees and reporters not well informed about the law make things even harder.

It is important to remember some key points about HIPAA and other patient privacy laws, presenters said: Continue reading

Calif. reporter finds dearth of public records on assisted-living homes

Deborah Schoch

About Deborah Schoch

Deborah Schoch is an independent health and science writer based in Los Angeles. During 18 years as a LA Times staff writer, she reported on pressing medical, science and environmental issues in the West and nationally. More recently, she helped found the USC Center for Health Reporting, later serving for six years as a senior writer. Current writing projects: environmental pollutants, healthcare-acquired infections, lung cancer.

Photo by Ed Yourdon via Flickr

Photo by Ed Yourdon via Flickr

I knew next to nothing about the fast-growing assisted-living industry when I started reporting in early 2013 on problem homes in San Diego.

For example, I did not know that many seniors in today’s assisted-living homes are so frail and medically needy that they would have been in nursing homes 20 or 30 years ago. Many live in facilities with no medically trained staff.

Most astonishing to me was the lack of public access to state regulatory reports revealing the quality of care in homes, not only in California but nationally. We’re so accustomed to NursingHomeCompare and HospitalCompare – whatever their flaws – that the hoops families and journalists must leap through to judge an assisted-living home’s quality seem downright primitive. Continue reading

Project offers guide on access to autopsy records

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 AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

The Marion Brechner Citizen Access Project at the University of Florida College of Communications has posted an online guide to access to autopsy records, which are not open records in about half the states and the District of Columbia, according to Ana-Klara Anderson, J.D., Ph.D.autopsy-description-sheet

Where the records are public, they are mired in exemptions that limit public access. Anderson, writing for Quill, the magazine of the Society of Professional Journalists, points out that autopsy records are important for reporting on public health and safety issues as well as crime and other issues.

Anderson, a former researcher for the Marion Brechner Citizen Access Project and a member of the SPJ Freedom of Information Committee, provides more details about exemptions and case law on the subject.