Last year, Taylor Knopf, a health care journalist at North Carolina Health News, spent more than a week out of a vacation to report on how France and Switzerland have been able to do what the health care system in the United States has so far failed to do: stem the tide of opioid-related deaths.
An aging population isn’t just a challenge for providers and policymakers in the U.S. – it’s an issue most nations contend with. Experts participating in last week’s webinar from The Commonwealth Fund, Health and Health Care Among Older Adults in 11 Countries, confirm that finding the right balance between clinical and social services, cost-effectiveness and promoting aging in place is tricky, no matter what health system is in place.
The webinar featured key findings from The Commonwealth Fund’s latest International Health Policy Survey, which examined consumer opinions of health systems and care delivery. Experts from France, the United Kingdom and the U.S. provided perspective on the issues. This previous blog post summarizes survey results. Continue reading
British clinics delivering cosmetic surgery were thrown into crisis by the decision last month of the French government to fund the removal of thousands of breast implants manufactured by the now-closed French company Poly Implant Prostheses (PIP). The implants were found to have used industrial grade silicone made for use in mattresses. Continue reading
One of the points that stood out for me at the first European conference on health journalism was from conference organizer John Lister. “Few journalists understand what [the] health care system’s reforms means,” Lister said during the Health in the Headlines conference at Coventry University in June. Continue reading
Fresh off a trip to powwow with health journalists, academics and officials in England as a Fulbright Senior Specialist, AHCJ Immediate Past President Trudy Lieberman writes on CJR.org about what American health systems can learn from the British National Health Service when it comes to patient safety.
In particular, Lieberman looks at the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement, which has pushed a few simple changes that have lead to measurable and marked improvements in several key safety measures and are, she writes, embraced by “almost all U.K. hospitals.”
Since 2007 the Institute has fostered nurse-led innovations to improve care in such areas as patient hygiene, nursing procedures, meals, medicines, and ward rounds that frees up more time to be with patients. Now almost all UK hospitals embrace some of these practices. Positive stats from this “Releasing Time to Care” project show a thirteen percentage point increase in the median time spent on direct care; a seven percentage point increase in median patient satisfaction scores, and a twenty-three percentage point increase in median patient observations.
The innovations include little tricks like nurses donning red pinafores to signal “don’t interrupt me, I’m dispensing medication” and charting patient falls with red dots on a hospital floor plan, so that problem areas can be easily spotted.
According to Lieberman, simple changes like these don’t get the attention or widespread adoption they deserve. Thus, she ends her piece with a call to arms for health journalists, asking them to tell the stories of the sort of simple, easy-to-relate-to steps that are saving lives on both sides of the pond (Oregon, in particular, has been quick to follow the NHS lead in these areas).
So where does the press fit into all this? Media outlets in the UK and the US have something in common—they aren’t much interested in reporting good news and what works. It’s in our journalistic DNA to ferret out the evil, bad, and ugly with the hope that press exposure will change practice. But my visit to the NHS showed that positive change does happen and should be reported. Taylor told me she tried to interest British journos in some of the Institute’s achievements but got “not a sniff.”
“Journalists don’t celebrate success,” she said, “but innovation is to be shared.” Nor has there been any interest from U.S. reporters. CareOregon hasn’t sent out any press releases partly because the results are just coming in and because officials fear that the U.S. stereotype of the NHS is so powerful the program might die a-borning. If I were still a local consumer reporter, I would forget about all that ambiguous, hard-to-interpret data about hospital quality and look for concrete improvements patients and families can relate to, like red pinafores and scorecards for reducing falls. Then I would make a how-to comparison chart showing which hospitals were embracing some of the simple technologies that appear to work.
The standards of health reporting in the United States are higher than ever before, according to AHCJ Vice President Karl Stark.
Stark, the health and science editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, is in England for “Health in the Headlines,” a European conference on health journalism co-sponsored by AHCJ and Coventry University.
While there, he was a guest on “FT Science with Clive Cookson,” a Financial Times podcast.
Stark said this is a time of great opportunity and great foment in U.S. health journalism. When asked about covering pharmaceutical companies, Stark acknowledged that is a challenge and requires training to penetrate and learn the language.
Stark used an analogy about sports preferences in the United States (high scoring) and Europe (low scoring) to explain the differences in how people in the two places view health care.
It’s worth listening to Stark’s segment; it’s about six and half minutes long at the beginning of the podcast.