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.
Promise from HHS
Media officers for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have promised to make top officials available to reporters. See it now...
'Threat to democracy'
AHCJ joined more than 80 groups to express alarm over the Trump administration's efforts to undermine the media's ability to inform the public. See it now...
Letter to Trump
AHCJ and 60 other journalism organizations ask the president-elect for a meeting about government access. 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.
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