Updated hospital data allows reporters to identify ongoing problems

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 release this month of federal data on hospital quality is a good reminder for reporters to give their local hospitals a checkup.

Now that CMS has been reporting information on mortality and readmissions for several years, it’s possible to use the data to identify hospitals that repeatedly excel and those that have ongoing problems. While some journalists may have a been-there-done-that reaction to yet another round of data, the latest release has important information for your readers, viewers and listeners. After several years, a surprising number of hospitals can’t seem to improve — and an elite group has been able to maintain its excellence.

AHCJ not only offers the data in easy-to-analyze formats; we also offer tip sheets on using spreadsheets to analyze health data. To give you a head start, Charles Ornstein, senior reporter at ProPublica and AHCJ’s president, has done some preliminary analysis and points out states in which hospitals fared well and the states where hospitals did poorly. He also identifies the best and worst in the country based on mortality rates for patients suffering heart attacks, heart failure and pneumonia.

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