Tag Archives: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

How to cover nursing homes with more depth and data #ahcj13

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

It was worth the wait to attend one of the last sessions on the last day of Health Journalism 2013.

Data mining is one of those topics that can make the audience’s eyes glaze over, but the energy level in the room was high as the audience learned how two Boston Globe reporters used publicly accessible records to expose widespread overmedication of Massachusetts nursing home residents, resulting in a highly acclaimed front-page series.

Health reporter Kay Lazar led a panel which included her colleague, reporter Matt Carroll, and Patricia Fried, a consultant to lawyers investigating nursing home wrongdoing, subcontractor to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and experienced nursing home director.

Discovering the truth about nursing home residents’ quality of life can be challenging, Lazar said. However, once you understand what to look for and how to analyze the data, it unearths a wealth of information, and many potential story ideas. Much of the analysis conducted by Lazar and Carroll came from statements of deficiency (SOD) forms submitted to CMS by nursing home surveyors, also known as inspectors. Continue reading

Rau explains using data to write about hospital readmissions

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.

Many health policy experts believe that hospital readmissions are symptomatic of the broad dysfunction of the health care system in which providers don’t work with each other as patients pass from one setting, like a hospital, to another, like a primary doctor’s oversight or a nursing home.

Core Topics
Health Reform
Aging
Other Topics

As a result, hospitals will face penalties for excessive readmissions of patients treated for heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia.

Jordan Rau, of Kaiser Health News, recently reported that 2,211 hospitals will lose a piece of their Medicare reimbursement – that’s about two-thirds of all the hospitals Medicare evaluated.

In a piece for AHCJ, Rau explains how the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services calculates the penalty and how to write about it.

As Rau says, “hospitals are doing a lot of interesting things to try to clamp down on readmission rates. It’s a nice window into many of the most important issues in health care, including cost, access and disparities, and the CMS data allow reporters to write about hospitals with specificity and authority.”

New tool allows searches of nursing home inspection reports

Judith Graham

About Judith Graham

Judith Graham (@judith_graham), is a freelance journalist based in Denver and former topic leader on aging for AHCJ. She haswritten for the New York Times, Kaiser Health News, the Washington Post, the Journal of the American Medical Association, STAT News, the Chicago Tribune, and other publications.

For the first time, reporters anywhere in the country can search nursing home inspection reports online and see how often common problems pop up.

Thank you, ProPublica, for creating Nursing Home Inspect. It’ll make our jobs much easier, and be a valuable source of story ideas for many months to come.

Included at the moment are more than 20,000 reports from government inspections of 14,565 nursing homes, most since January 2011. The database will be updated monthly, ProPublica says, and that will make it even more helpful as time goes on.

Core Topics
Health Reform
Aging
Other Topics

Deficiencies are noted when nursing homes are unclean or unsafe, or when staff harm elderly or disabled patients, or give medication inappropriately, or violate other standards of care. (These are just a few examples; there are many, many more.) Grades are awarded depending on the seriousness of the problem observed, with “A” being the least severe and “L” the most severe.

The inspection reports were posted online by the government in July – a first-of-its-kind public disclosure – but not in a format that made it possible to search them by keywords, cities, or nursing homes’ names. That’s where ProPublica’s new app comes in. Charlie Ornstein of ProPublica has written up helpful tips on using the database.

Reporters might want to begin by seeing which nursing homes in their city or state have been cited for deficiencies deemed most egregious, those with a letter grade of “K” or “L.” These are the facilities you might want to focus on if you were doing an investigation. (You’d surely want to know, however, if the problems identified persisted over time, and that kind of information isn’t yet available via ProPublica. To get it, you’ll have to ask government regulators to let you look at previous inspection reports.) Continue reading

Hospital sues to block release of 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.

Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, the subject of recent reports that patients were at risk, has sued the Texas attorney general in an attempt to prevent the release of records requested by The Dallas Morning News.

Brooks Egerton reports:

Parkland filed the latest lawsuit — its fifth against the AG related to the newspaper — on Monday. This time the goal is to block release of Parkland police department records dealing with the psychiatric emergency room. The News is not seeking medical records.

Related:

Reports detail Dallas hospital on brink of losing federal funds

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Late Friday, a damning federal report declaring that patients were at risk at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas was released. Even later that same day, Dallas Morning News reporters Miles Moffeit, Sue Goetinck Ambrose, Reese Dunklin and Sherry Jacobsen published their first report online (available to subscribers only).

The reporters write that the inspectors’ findings were released in response to a reform plan the hospital submitted just before its Friday deadline, a plan they report “involves hiring new nurses; rewriting some policies; retraining staff; retiring outdated medicines, supplies and equipment; and launching an intensive series of daily or weekly performance audits over at least the next five months.” According to those who have viewed the 600-page release, they have a lot to overcome.

“It appears safety was routinely relegated to a lower priority by other pressures,” said Vanderbilt University professor Ranga Ramanujam, a national expert in health care safety. “The CMS action is extraordinary. I am hard-pressed to think of an example of a similarly high-profile hospital facing the very real possibility of losing their CMS funding as a result of safety violations.”

The paper’s speedy, thorough response to the release shouldn’t be entirely surprising, considering that they’ve been out ahead of the story from the very beginning.

The top-to-bottom July inspection of Parkland was sparked by a News report of the death of a Parkland psychiatric patient in February. The hospital didn’t report the death to the Texas Department of State Health Services or to CMS, both of which then investigated the case. CMS regulators later determined that the rights of the patient, George Cornell, had been violated repeatedly by Parkland.

The hospital has until Sept. 2 to get its correction plan approved by CMS and to pass inspections, otherwise it could lose the Medicare and Medicaid funds on which it so heavily depends.


CMS failed to report disciplined providers

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

ProPublica’s Marian Wang reports that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services “essentially undermined” HHS efforts to create a national database of disciplined health care providers by failing to report disciplinary actions. The news comes from a report by the HHS Office of Inspector General (23-page PDF).

According to Wang, the investigation “found that CMS, which oversees health care programs serving about 45 million Medicare beneficiaries and 59 million Medicaid beneficiaries, took disciplinary action against numerous bad medical providers but did not report those actions to the Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank.” As anyone who’s been following ProPublica’s award-winning “When Caregivers Harm” series knows, the database is chronically deficient, and – despite federal requirements – CMS isn’t helping.

CMS is required by law to report the following types of disciplinary action to the database: revocations and suspensions of laboratory certifications; terminations of providers from participation in Medicare; civil monetary penalties against all types of providers, managed care plans, and prescription drug plans.

Some of the data that should’ve been reported includes 148 sanctions imposed against laboratories in 2007 and 30 sanctions taken against managed care and prescription drug plans between January 2006 and July 31, 2009. From 2004 to 2008, the agency banned 45 nursing homes from participating in Medicare, and those actions were not reported until fall 2009, long after the required reporting timeframe, the inspector general’s office said.

According to officials, it was all just a big misunderstanding.