Tag Archives: hospital

In new tip sheet, Chicago reporter suggests questions to ask about low hospital occupancy rates

Joseph Burns

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health insurance. He welcomes questions and suggestions on insurance resources and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

Photo by Mark Hillary via Flickr.

For many years, health insurers have worked to keep patients out of hospitals, the costliest care setting. At the same time, hospital administrators have worked to keep heads in the beds, as they say.

In this long tug-of-war, Chicago area hospitals appear to be losing at an alarming rate, according to a comprehensive analysis of data from the Illinois Department of Health, and other sources, conducted by reporter Kristen Schorsch of Crain’s Chicago Business. For a special report published earlier this year, she learned what hospital administrators had already known: that Illinois hospitals were over bedded and operating at about 40 percent of capacity. Schorsch’s special project is impressive, not only for the depth of her reporting but also for the excellent presentation that Crain’s made with the data she collected. Continue reading

Reporter finds nonprofit hospital’s suit against uninsured patient was just one of many

Joseph Burns

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health insurance. He welcomes questions and suggestions on insurance resources and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

Dianna Wray

Dianna Wray

In January 2012, EMTs took Ignacio Alaniz by helicopter to Memorial Hermann Hospital, one of the largest nonprofit medical centers in Texas. Alaniz had been working underneath his Buick Century, trying to get it started. When it rolled over him, he suffered a punctured lung, nine fractured ribs and a broken arm.

“By the time the helicopter landed, he was already $12,196.37 in debt,” wrote Dianna Wray, a staff writer for the Houston Press. Her article about Alaniz, “Getting Stuck: Uninsured Patients Slammed with Lawsuits by Not-for-Profit Hospital,” was recognized as one of the best examples of health journalism in the business (small) category in AHCJ’s Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism. In a new “How I did it” article, Wray explains how her reporting led her to many more cases of patients being sued for medical debt and some of the reaction the story generated. Continue reading

Updated hospital inspection data includes psychiatric facilities

Jeff Porter

About Jeff Porter

Jeff Porter is the director of education for AHCJ and plays a lead role in planning conferences, workshops and other training events. He also leads the organization's data collection and data instruction efforts.

hospital-inspection-orgAHCJ has updated its HospitalInspections.org website and the downloadable version of the data to include reports from most of 2013. The database – obtained from the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services – now includes psychiatric hospital complaint-based inspection reports. Previous versions included only acute-care and critical access hospitals.

The database includes reports about deficiencies cited during complaint inspections throughout the United States since Jan. 1, 2011. The new records include June through September, with a handful of October reports. It does not include results of routine inspections or those of long-term care hospitals. It also does not include hospital responses to deficiencies cited during inspections. The website explains how to obtain that information.

The update added 2,976 records with inspection details, giving the database a total of 9,152 records. Some state health departments and CMS regional offices have lagged in uploading deficiency reports to the agency’s main database. CMS has identified the hospitals with missing reports, and they are labeled as such on hospitalinspections.org. CMS has committed to working with its regional offices and state counterparts to speed the uploading of inspection reports so that the public has access to this important information. The updated database includes 429 inspections lacking details.

AHCJ launched the free, searchable news application in March. The inspection reports have been configured by AHCJ to be easily searchable by keyword, city, state and hospital name. The website is open to anyone, but only AHCJ members have access to a downloadable version and additional resources to help users understand what is being reported and what is not. These caveats are important for putting the information into context.

Funding for the hospitalinspections.org project was provided by the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

Investigation finds hospital’s leader spent public money on personal interests

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.

Reese Dunklin and Sue Goetinck Ambrose of The Dallas Morning News document how Kern Wildenthal, the former UT Southwestern Medical Center president and its current chief fundraiser, spent hundreds of thousands in public dollars in recent years to build campus wine cellars, pay for his opera interests and travel to paradises around the world.

The investigation details a collapse in controls over taxpayer dollars and triggered a University of Texas System internal inquiry that found many of the same problems. Two auditors were jettisoned in response, Wildenthal will be forced to pay restitution and reforms are being considered. Continue reading

String of errors made Stanford patient data public

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.

In The New York Times, Kevin Sack traces the series of errors and lapses in judgement that led to a large-scale data breach at Stanford Hospital, one which went unnoticed for almost a year. Sack’s lead paragraph neatly encapsulates the whole story.

Private medical data for nearly 20,000 emergency room patients at California’s prestigious Stanford Hospital were exposed to public view for nearly a year because a billing contractor’s marketing agent sent the electronic spreadsheet to a job prospect as part of a skills test, the hospital and contractors confirmed this week. The applicant then sought help by unwittingly posting the confidential data on a tutoring Web site.

Since 2009, when federal law began requiring disclosure of medical data breaches involving more than 500 people, Sack reports that about 330 incidents have been reported on an HHS website. A CSV file of the data is available.

Doctors operated by flashlight, workers scrambled in tornado-ravaged hospital

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.

As you probably know, St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Joplin, Mo., sustained serious damage in the May 22 tornado that struck that town. Stories about what happened inside the hospital in that 45 seconds and the ensuing moments have started to emerge.

Tornado damage in Joplin, Mo. Photo by KOMUnews via Flickr

Tornado damage in Joplin, Mo. Photo by KOMUnews via Flickr

An emergency room doctor writes about diving for cover and then treating injured patients with limited supplies and only light from a flashlight he held in his mouth as he worked. Photo galleries on Flickr have images showing the damage inside and outside the hospital, as well as the MASH unit that was set up.

Outpatient Surgery Magazine has the tale of an orthopedic surgeon who was in the middle of surgery when the tornado hit. He and his team finished the surgery with a flashlight and while standing in several inches of water. “The doctor who trained me thought it was important to know how to do surgery the way they used to, with manual instruments,” said Dr. Smith. “That should be a part of everybody’s training.” (Hat tip to @JJacksonJr for pointing this piece out.)

Courtney Hutchison, of the ABC News Medical Unit, looks at tornado preparedness for hospitals, especially the failure of the backup generator. As one expert points out, generators need adequate ventilation, which means they are usually near an exterior wall and vulnerable to tornadoes.

A New York Times story describes the frantic race to move patients before the tornado struck and then the aftermath, which included treating patients in the parking lot and using a bus and the beds of pickup trucks to take patients to other hospitals.

St. Johns’ Med Flight manager was briefly sucked out of the hospital:

Suddenly, the glass doors he was holding onto – the ones with the 100-pound magnet to keep them locked – were pulled open. [Rod] Pace was sucked outside briefly and then pushed back in like a rag doll but held on to the handles.

Engineers have started examining the hospital to decide whether it can be salvaged.

In the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Blythe Bernhard tells the story of a St. Louis doctor, Brian Froelke, who is chief medical officer for the Missouri disaster medical team. That team, of about 40 health care providers, set up a 30-bed tent to serve as a replacement emergency department. Listen to Froelke discuss his experience treating tornado-related injuries. One doctor who was in the hospital when it was hit compared the scene to Haiti after last year’s earthquake.

Thomas Burton of The Wall Street Journal writes about the chaos that the town’s other hospital experienced. It was thrown into darkness and inundated with patients.

Joy Robertson of KOLR-Springfield, Mo., served as a member of the Federal Disaster Mortuary Response Team for several years and responded to the World Trade Center after 9/11.  She explains (about halfway through the story) how the morgue operations work in mass fatality disasters and how victims are identified.