Tag Archives: lieberman

New AHCJ board seated for 2012-13

Scott Hensley, NPR’s Shots blog writer and editor, joins five incumbents in being seated on the Association of Health Care Journalists’ 2012-13 board of directors.

Scott Hensley
Scott Hensley

Incumbents starting a new two-year term include AHCJ Secretary Julie Appleby, Kaiser Health News; AHCJ Treasurer Ivan Oransky, M.D., Reuters Health; Phil Galewitz, Kaiser Health News; Andy Miller, Georgia Health News; and Irene Wielawski, independent journalist. Immediate Past President Trudy Lieberman, a longtime board member and contributing editor for Columbia Journalism Review, chose not to run for re-election.

Hensley has served on AHCJ’s membership committee since 2009 and helped refine its membership rules. Longtime Covering Health readers will remember that Hensley contributed to this blog for several months in 2009.

Before joining NPR in the summer of 2009, he was the founding editor of The Wall Street Journal‘s Health Blog after several years of print reporting for the Journal and previously a reporter at Modern Healthcare and American Banker.

The newly seated board members join those elected last year for two-year terms: AHCJ President Charles Ornstein, ProPublica; Vice President Karl Stark, The Philadelphia Inquirer; Felice Freyer, The Providence Journal; Gideon Gil, The Boston Globe; Carla K. Johnson, The Associated Press; and Maryn McKenna, independent journalist.

The Association of Health Care Journalists is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing public understanding of health care issues. Its mission is to improve the quality, accuracy and visibility of health care reporting, writing and editing. AHCJ is housed at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Inspired by NHS, Lieberman calls for reporters to spotlight patient safety improvements

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.

Fact-checking Pawlenty’s health reform claims

In some parts of the country, health care-related posturing for the 2012 election is already in full swing. Over at CJR.org, AHCJ Immediate Past President Trudy Lieberman applauds a forceful bit of health care reform fact-checking by Minnesota Public Radio reporter Lorna Benson. In her piece, Benson carefully picks apart claims made by former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty as he touts his health reform record as a key piece of his 2012 presidential campaign.

Pawlenty’s two big health talking points are his “baskets of care,” or bundled payments for certain procedures, and his pay-for-performance plan. While both sound promising on paper, Benson found that some gaping holes had opened up as soon as the rubber met the road. See Benson’s full piece for the details of how any real change has been difficult to track or, indeed, even to detect at all.

Lieberman, Ornstein on health as a top 5 beat

Earlier this month, Online Journalism Review’s Robert Niles stirred things up with his lively post on the five most important beats for a local newspaper or website. As you might have heard, health didn’t make the cut (though the related “food” beat is at the top of the list).

Under pressure from commenters and tweeters, Niles conceded that health would be a contender for any “top 6” list. He elaborated on his health take in the comments, essentially arguing that local health coverage would fall under “Top 5” categories like labor, business and food.

Angilee Shah, who writes the Career GPS feature over at Reporting on Health, took Niles’ bait and defended health journalism with the help of AHCJ President Charles Ornstein and AHCJ Immediate Past President Trudy Lieberman.

Ornstein’s take:

Even if you factor in the health stories that can be written by the wires, think of all the local health institutions that consumers rely on—doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, assisted living centers, other health professionals. Do you really expect the reporter who covers the local bank or the local shopping scene to parachute in and cover these institutions well? A reporter covering health understands the difference between Medicare and Medicaid, assisted living and nursing homes, etc. To ask a local government reporter or education reporter to thoroughly cover food deserts in their community or childhood obesity in their schools is too big of a stretch.

And, Shah describes Lieberman’s take:

Lieberman takes an equally adamant stance. “I argue strenuously that this should be a beat, and it should be a dedicated beat with a well-trained reporter,” she said in a phone conversation. Dwindling local health coverage has increased the gap between Washington policy makers and the communities their policies affect. Local journalists should be explaining the effects of complicated health care laws on specific communities. She points to “bright spots” in local health news, such as a Las Vegas Sun series about hospital safety in Nevada.

“I think reporters need to know what’s allowed and how that should translate into what people are seeing, and whether or not they’re being deceived at a local level,” Lieberman said. “It’s a Washington story but it’s not a Washington story. It’s a local story.”

Your take?

There are plenty of small-town reporters in AHCJ, many of whom have more than just health care on their plates. What do you folks think? How many reporters does a newspaper or website need to have before it can dedicate one of them to health care journalism?

Lieberman: Election is evidence media got reform coverage wrong

In her column on CJRorg, AHCJ Immediate Past President Trudy Lieberman writes that this week’s elections showed just how thoroughly the media missed the mark on health care reform coverage.

After the economy (62 percent), health care (19 percent) was the second most important issue to voters. And while the media (and the administration) trumpeted the benefits of health reform and “glossed over” the drawbacks, public opinion soured. The biggest oversight, Lieberman writes, was the national insurance mandate, a policy that was more Republican than Democrat.

Lieberman says it best:

If the media failed to discuss in detail the law’s less attractive points, it also missed one of the campaign’s biggest ironies. Republicans, with their repeal and replace slogans, stirred up discontent about a law that was basically built with Republican and conservative ideas. That irony escaped the media.

She doesn’t explicitly frame it as such, but Lieberman’s column leaves me with the distinct impression that with the health care debate reignited by a Republican landslide, journalists are being given a second chance to provide the public with a clear understanding of what’s going on in Washington, an impression that’s cemented with her final sentence:

Whatever happens, the U.S. health system is still its dysfunctional, fragmented, costly self, in need of repair or wholesale reform. Going forward, this is the story the media need to tell.