Photo: National Cancer Institute
When I first began writing in health and science journalism, my biggest “micro-beat” was vaccines (and still is). I had spent more than a year in graduate school reading up on vaccines and interviewing dozens of folks in the field or tangential to it (such as parents and advocates) before I published any substantive articles about vaccines for a publication.
I was fortunate to be able to spend that time diving so deep into a single area, but it also gave me a deep appreciation for the areas I would not want to cover without being able to spend a similar amount of time studying up on them first. For years after I began working as a full-time journalist, that included anything in oncology. Continue reading
IBM enjoyed positive PR on its cancer treatment adviser, Watson for Oncology, until two reporters for Stat looked into whether the results matched the buzz.
Casey Ross and Ike Swetlitz describe in a new “How We Did It“ piece that they initially got interested in IBM Watson because there were “a few chinks in the narrative“ the computing giant had been telling. Notably, one big cancer center had scrapped its project with IBM. Continue reading
Physicians and other health care providers are just beginning to talk with patients about health care costs and quality. On the leading edge of this trend are oncologists, some of whom are developing tools to stimulate these conversations with cancer patients.
For journalists interested in this topic, a recording is available of a webcast we did on this topic last month. Continue reading
Any health care journalist covering the business side of physician practices knows that doctors in private practice often struggle. Health plans and the federal Medicare program make it difficult for physicians to get paid for the work they do and they change the billing and payment rules frequently.
In addition, doctors often say they have so little time each day to manage patient care properly because payers require them to see 20 to 40 patients a day. Continue reading
Photo: Abby via Flickr
Health journalists received a few lessons in economics during a discussion last week on some alarming drug trends – largely the result of a broken market – that are threatening patient care and undermining the U.S. health care system.
At a New York City chapter event, Phil Zweig, a longtime financial journalist who also runs a group called Physicians Against Drug Shortages, spoke about the scarcity of generic drugs in hospitals and clinics – a problem that has persisted for years. Hospital group purchasing organizations (GPOs), which are not regulated and essentially negotiate supply purchases for hospitals, have the ability to charge market share to the highest bidder. Zweig said they can do this because the safe harbor provision in the 1987 Medicare anti-kickback law excluded GPOs from criminal prosecution for taking kickbacks from suppliers.
“The more you can pay to a GPO, the more market share you get,” Zweig said.
Because of the exclusive contracts that GPOs award, the number of competitors in the market shrinks, which has led to a shortage of generic prescription drugs – everything from sterile injectables to chemotherapy agents. Continue reading