The right to know: It’s a concept that underpins all journalism, and nowhere is it more important than in health care and medicine. Patients have a right to know what will keep them healthy and what will make them sick. Citizens have a right to know how effectively their government protects and serves those who depend on it. For health care journalists that means heavy responsibilities – and sometimes daunting challenges. Through its Right to Know Committee, AHCJ advocates for openness and provides resources for members striving to shed light on complex topics.
Trouble getting information?
Fill out this form to alert AHCJ's Right to Know Committee if you encounter an unresponsive spokesperson, hidden data or are denied access. See it now...
Lack of access
AHCJ members report being unable to speak directly to public health experts has impeded reporting on COVID-19. See it now...
AHCJ supports public access to all data about COVID-19 hospitalizations. See it now...
Reporters can encounter obstacles in obtaining documents that reveal what the government is doing, or failing to do – on the local, state and federal levels. Some public record laws are weak, and they may also be poorly enforced. Here are resources and stories to guide you in accessing public records.
AHCJ backs public data about COVID-19 hospitalizations After the Trump administration ordered hospitals to stop reporting COVID-19 data to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and send patient information to a central database in Washington, D.C., AHCJ released a statement supporting the continued public availabilty of COVID-19 hospitalization data.
On the health beat, public records can be a lifeline In recognition of Sunshine Week 2018, Michael Morisy, founder of MuckRock, a nonprofit that works for a more informed democracy, wrote for AHCJ some tips about using freedom of information laws to get great stories while juggling everything else you need to get done.
Shining a light on communities through public information In recognition of Sunshine Week 2018, Amelia Nitz, communications manager for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, wrote for AHCJ about open records laws and how her organization is prepared to help reporters obtain public records.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act includes privacy protections for patients that can be misunderstood and misapplied by health officials and health care organizations. In some instances, HIPAA has been improperly used to deny reporters’ requests for interviews with patients and clinicians or to obtain medical information. Reporters should be familiar with the law in order to understand when and to whom it applies.
The high cost of medical care is one of the biggest challenges facing American society – a challenge made more difficult by a complex and shifting financing system. Journalists have a key role in informing the public about where and how money flows in health care, who benefits, and what practices yield the highest value.
Medicare provider charge data (updated June 2015) Hospital-specific charges for the top 100 most frequently billed discharges at the 3,000 hospitals across the U.S. that receive Medicare payments.
Medicare's Nursing Home Compare database Data compiled from inspections and compares health and fire safety concerns as well as quality measures and staffing information for nursing homes across the country.
Medicare provider charge data Hospital-specific charges for the top 100 most frequently billed discharges at the 3,000 hospitals across the U.S. that receive Medicare payments.
The Association of Health Care Journalists advocates for the free flow of information for journalists and the public. Through its advocacy arm, the Right to Know Committee, it works to open doors to health and medical knowledge and serves as a resource for members having difficulty accessing information.
How the FDA Manipulates the Media Charles Seife, in Scientific American, finds that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been arm-twisting journalists into relinquishing their reportorial independence, our investigation reveals. Other institutions are following suit.
We never obtained the patient death and hospitalization reports that dentists must file in most states. We thought we had a good chance of getting these records here in Texas, which does not explicitly classify them as confidential. We spent significant time and money in suing for the records, but a judge ultimately rules against us. There are a few states that are willing to share such records — which is fertile ground for further reporting.
— Brooks Egerton, investigatiive reporter, The Dallas Morning News