Tag Archives: philadelphia inquirer

Health stories top Investigative Business Journalism awards

Health-related investigations (including one by an AHCJ member) snagged both top spots in the Barlett & Steele Awards for Investigative Business Journalism this year. The awards, funded by the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism, judge stories based on “investigative enterprise, strong business theme, writing style, clarity and impact.”

Reuters’ Murray Waas took the top spot, called the Gold Award, for “Diagnosed with Breast Cancer, Dropped by Insurer (PDF),” a four-month investigation of WellPoint’s rescission algorithm. He’ll get $5,000.

The Silver Award, meanwhile, went to AHCJ member John Fauber, of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, for “Side Effects: Money, Medicine and Patients,” the long-running conflict of interest investigation we’ve covered extensively on this blog.

There was no Bronze Award, but another health story — “Inside the Health-Care Crucible: Reports from a Hospital in a Time of Upheaval,” by the Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Michael Vitez — did earn an honorable mention. We’ve mentioned Vitez’ dispatches before, he’s the reporter who spent months “embedded” in a suburban Pennsylvania hospital.

Reporter covers patient ‘dumping’ from inside

The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Michael Vitez has been given free reign for several months now to explore and report on Abington Memorial Hospital as an embedded reporter.

The result has been a mix of deep, wonderfully chosen anecdotes accompanied by quotes and hospital introspection that go far beyond what you often see in “look what went wrong at the local hospital!” stories.

His latest installment explores the effect of patient “dumping” on hospitals through the story of an 83-year-old illegal immigrant from Korea whose family dropped her off at Abington out of desperation and had no intention of picking her up on her discharge date. Vitez’ report is distinguished by his honest, thoughtful approach to both patient and caregiver.

In previous dispatches, he has chronicled how Abington is working to prevent with hospital-acquired infections and, as Covering Health has covered previously, palliative care.

Report details errors in waiting-room death

The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Tom Avril reports on how hospital errors led to the death of a 63-year-old north Philadelphia guidance counselor. Avril opens his story by painting a picture of hospital operations, one based on documents released after a state investigation.

electronic medical recordsPhoto by exvertebrate via Flickr

Twice, when an emergency-room nurse called out the name of Joaquin Rivera and he did not respond, she had no idea he’d already suffered a massive heart attack.

The reason: The nurse did not venture beyond the waiting-room doorway and simply did not see him where he sat, unattended, for nearly an hour.

Avril reported that the hospital has already taken steps to prevent a similar occurrence in the future, including:

  • Increasing security by more than 30 percent
  • Creating new training for registration staff, with an emphasis on communication with nurses
  • Instituting a policy of calling patient names every 10 minutes if they don’t answer at first
  • Identifying a location on the waiting-room floor from which all parts of the room can be seen and marking it with tape so that triage nurses know where to stand when calling out names
  • Hiring an architectural firm to see if further improvements can be made

FDA approval causes drug price to skyrocket

In a collaboration between The Philadelphia Inquirer and Kaiser Health News, Harris Meyer looks at the case of colchicine, a drug used to treat gout that has been on the market so long that it predates the FDA approval process, and thus had never been approved.

Like thousands of drugs it existed in a sort of grandfathered generic state. That ended in 2009 when URL Pharma earned FDA approval for a branded version of the drug, which it sells for 50 times more per pill than the generic.

The drug company convinced the FDA that its version was safer than the generic, a claim disputed by many physicians. Now, Meyer reports, it’s likely that the generic colchicine will be forced from the market over the coming months, driving customers of the centuries-old drug (a natural version was first mentioned by the ancient Greeks) into the arms of URL Pharma. According to Meyer, the case is just one of several that have resulted from post-2006 FDA efforts to gain control and approval over all those grandfathered-in unregulated drugs.