Author Archives: Karen Blum

About Karen Blum

Karen Blum is AHCJ’s core topic leader on health IT. An independent journalist in the Baltimore area, she has written health IT stories for publications such as Pharmacy Practice News, Clinical Oncology News, Gastroenterology & Endoscopy News, General Surgery News and Infectious Disease Special Edition.

Request to extend telehealth benefits for Medicare beneficiaries, and other story starters

There’s been a small flurry of stories and news updates on telehealth this summer.

On July 26, some 430 health systems, associations and companies sent a joint letter to Congress urging policymakers to extend telehealth benefits for Medicare beneficiaries beyond the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Prior to the start of the pandemic, Medicare only covered telehealth visits for its beneficiaries living in defined rural areas who initiated the call from a provider’s office, according to Kyle Zebley, vice president of public policy for the American Telemedicine Association (ATA), which is co-leading the effort. Thanks to provisions covered by legislation such as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, telehealth became a covered service for all Medicare beneficiaries regardless of area of residence or where calls were initiated. But it was designed as a temporary measure. Unless it’s made permanent, cautioned the ATA and other letter writers, Medicare beneficiaries and providers who have become accustomed to the service could fall off what advocates call a “telehealth cliff.” Continue reading

Data breaches on the rise: What you need to know

Photo by Sai Kiran Anagani via Unsplash

Photo by Sai Kiran Anagani via Unsplash

If it seems as if you’ve been reading more about data breaches of hospitals and health care organizations lately, you’re not imagining it.

Between 2009 and 2020, 3,705 health care data breaches involving 500 or more records have been reported to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights, according to an article in HIPAA Journal. Those breaches resulted in the loss, theft, exposure or impermissible disclosure of over 268 million health care records. The average number of breaches per day in 2020 was 1.76. Continue reading

STAT health tech reporter says speed in the sector is a double-edged sword

Erin Brodwin

Erin Brodwin

Erin Brodwin is a San Francisco-based health tech reporter at STAT. Since 2019, she’s covered artificial intelligence in health care, written breaking news about health tech companies and covered wearable technologies and their impact on digital health. Her recent stories include a profile of the first chief medical officer of a maternal and family virtual care platform called Maven Clinic and an article about Apple’s new features for sharing health data with doctors and tracking trends. She also is one of four co-authors of STAT’s free biweekly Health Tech electronic newsletter. Previously, Erin covered health tech for Business Insider.

I interviewed Erin recently about some of the trends in health tech and her advice to AHCJ members looking to break into this space. She advises us to think about whom tech innovation benefits or harms, its significance more broadly and whether something billed as innovative truly is. (Responses have been lightly edited and condensed.) Continue reading

New tip sheet offers solid advice for covering hospital ransomware attacks

Paul Sisson

Paul Sisson

San Diego Union-Tribune health care reporter Paul Sisson was working on a home improvement project on a Sunday in early May when he received an urgent call from one of his editors. Scripps Health, the area’s second-largest health system in patient discharges, had announced that a cyberattack was forcing the shutdown of all computer systems in its four major hospitals, and the news desk needed help covering the issue. Sisson, an AHCJ member, jumped in, and ended up working until midnight.

Sisson said the typical email channels he used to contact the health system’s public affairs officers, its CEO and other sources were offline, and the hospital was limited in what it could confirm, forcing him to call on sources and skills cultivated during some 20 years of reporting. Despite Sisson’s experience, it was his first time covering a ransomware attack. He has compiled the lessons learned into a new tip sheet, which has been added to the Health IT Core Topic section of AHCJ’s website. Continue reading

Freelance writer finds wearable technology can boost health

Andrea King Collier

Andrea King Collier

Can you use wearable devices to improve your fitness and health? AHCJ member Andrea King Collier, an independent journalist in Michigan, was determined to find out.

In an article for AARP The Magazine, Collier detailed her experience trying several portable technologies for a 30-day period. She not only had an interesting experience but lost 10 pounds in the process and received positive feedback from family and friends. As an added bonus, Collier’s story won a gold award for AARP from the National Mature Media Awards. Continue reading