Tag Archives: database

Vox provides access to ER billing database for reporters

Photo: Micheal J via Flickr

Over the past year, Sarah Kliff (@sarahkliff) at Vox has been collecting emergency department bills from around the country and has reported a number of stories based on them.

Her stories included a patient who went to an in-network ER and was still billed nearly $8,000 and a major ER that – at the time – didn’t participate in the networks of any private health insurers, resulting in unexpected bills.

Continue reading

VA surgery database explanation available for medical research reporting

Photo: U.S. Pacific Fleet via Flickr

Surgery research can become complex very quickly: Not only are there the underlying conditions and demographics of each patient to consider, but also different characteristics particular to the procedure itself, the circumstances of the procedure, the institution and the providers doing the procedure.

If you frequently report on surgery studies, you may have covered a study that used data from the Veterans Affairs Surgical Quality Improvement Program (VASQIP).

Continue reading

AHCJ announces new member benefit: Greatly discounted LexisNexis access

AHCJ is excited to announce an offer for significantly discounted access to LexisNexis for association members. The offer, made possible in partnership with the Contently Foundation, a nonprofit organization for investigative reporting, will be of particular interest to AHCJ’s freelance members.

LexisNexis is a vital resource for all types of journalists and writers, but it’s particularly valuable for those covering health care in that it contains some 250 industry publications, including the American Journal of Law & Medicine, The American Journal of Surgery, The Lancet, Biotech Business, Modern Healthcare and Occupational Health. Continue reading

State prescription drug monitoring programs a window into fight against opioid abuse

Photo: ^Thais^ via Flickr

Photo: ^Thais^ via Flickr

With an estimated 78 opioid-related deaths per day nationwide, policymakers, journalists and the public are sounding the alarm on overprescribing of narcotic painkillers.

Reporters covering the opioid crisis might want to look at state efforts to track opioid prescribing by physicians. State prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) are electronic databases that gather information from pharmacies on controlled substance prescriptions. PDMPs are potentially powerful disincentives for overprescribing, according to a recent study. Continue reading

Heisel’s ‘Doctors Behaving Badly’ goes viral

As anybody who follows the Reporting on Health blog knows, William Heisel’s virtual roadshow of physician background research has been gaining ridiculous amounts of steam lately. His Doctors Behaving Badly brand has taken on a life of its own, propelled by a Google Map he put together to place his findings into geographic context.

View Doctors Behaving Badly in a larger map

That geographic context has become the focus of his investigation, as Heisel has turned what was once a quirky little recurring item into a systematic, state-by-state way into how the public can check up on disciplined (or otherwise problematic) doctors. He’s almost reached the halfway point, and he’s reached some interesting conclusions. My favorite is that he doesn’t think states that have terrible sites with which to check up on doctors are being malicious, they’re just bad at making websites.

I think the problem lies in poor website design. A board starts with a simple site that allows people to see if a doctor has a valid license. Then that same board adds scanned documents from its disciplinary files, but instead of linking these two things together, it puts them in completely different parts of its site. When the board gets around to adding malpractice information or criminal histories, it layers those on top, too, instead of fully integrating them.

The effect is a stratified system of information that lets patients think their physicians have a clean history when, in fact, their records are simply too hard to find.

Heisel recently appeared on Fox News to explain what he’d found thus far.

On the whole, Heisel’s effort helps illuminate the power of my favorite online reporting tool: The progressively investigated database.