Tag Archives: resources

Social workers can help bridge crisis and care, say panelists at #AHCJ17

Photo: Susan Heavey/AHCJBryan Thompson (right), rural health and agriculture reporter for Kansas News Service, moderated a session on the impact of adding social workers to health care clinics at AHCJ’s annual conference in Orlando. Social workers Gabrielle Jackson of the accountable care organization Aledade (left) and Mary Ann Burg of the University of Central Florida (center), discussed how such work could improve patient care and outcomes beyond the diagnosis.

Crisis care. That’s what many people think of when they consider social work. But for social workers in the health care field, they see an increasing effort to not only solve immediate problems but to also think more holistically about people’s health, experts at a Health Journalism 2017 panel on the issue.

At the session, “Why a Social Worker May Be the MVP of the Clinic,” two members of the profession said that being incorporated into health care practices offers an immediate opportunity to connect with patients who need additional help outside of basic medical needs.

Doctors care for the patients, said Gabrielle Jackson, a licensed social worker for accountable care organization Aledade, but social workers provide important support, such as ensuring that a patient given a prescription can obtain it and then actually takes it. Continue reading

Fast growth in nursing home ownership ripe for investigation

Photo: Ulrich Joho via Flickr

Photo: Ulrich Joho via Flickr

Serious problems at nursing homes are often easy to conceal. That is, unless you specifically dig for patterns of fraud, abuse, or misconduct.  That’s exactly what award-winning Boston Globe journalist Kay Lazar did to uncover a pattern of high profits for the owners, while complaints and problems mounted.

In a series of gripping stories, Lazar provided both micro and macro views of complex and potentially dangerous situations in nursing homes purchased by fast-growing Synergy Health Centers. She explored how failures in the Massachusetts state licensing system hurt families and how state regulators failed to perform the most basic checks on company executives and company finances before granting licenses. Continue reading

New tools, resources for covering health reform

We post new resources on the Health Reform section of the website every month, and encourage you to visit and explore. But we wanted to draw your attention to some that are particularly timely.

Image by  Sean via flickr.

Image by Sean via flickr.

  1. The Kaiser Family Foundation has a new tool, Mapping Marketplace Enrollment. You plug in a ZIP code and then you can see how many people are eligible for a federal exchange plan, and what proportion signed up in 2014 “within a 100,000-resident statistical-geographical area associated with the ZIP code.” It also provides demographic information, and can be used to make comparisons, including statewide.
  2. Louise Norris, a licensed broker who writes and blogs about insurance and the Affordable Care Act has done a 38-page e-book guide to Open Enrollment (Note: I’ve skimmed half of it, not read every word, but I have seen some of Norris’s work in the past.)
  3. We recently posted about closures of rural hospitals, and a reader pointed us to this recent issue brief from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It looks at rural residents who are hospitalized – who goes to rural hospitals and who “bypasses” them to go to urban ones.
  4. ProPublica just launched a web app that allows consumers – and journalists – to  look up their current plan to see how premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket costs will change next year, or compare all 2015 plans offered in an area.

Otto to lead AHCJ’s resources on oral health

Journalist Mary Otto will be AHCJ’s oral health topic leader, helping members stay on top of the news as it relates to this important but sometimes overlooked aspect of health care through timely blog posts, fact sheets, tip sheets and articles.

Mary Otto

Mary Otto

Otto is a Washington, D.C.-based journalist who began writing about oral health at The Washington Post, where she worked for eight years covering social issues including health care and poverty.

In 2007, she wrote the story of 12-year-old Deamonte Driver, a Maryland child covered by Medicaid who died after bacteria from a dental infection spread to his brain. The death of the boy spurred congressional hearings, a revamping of Maryland’s Medicaid dental system and increased attention to oral health access for Medicaid children nationwide.

After leaving the Post in a newsroom downsizing, Otto spent an academic year as a 2009-10 Knight Science Journalism Fellow studying oral health and public health at Harvard University. Her ongoing exploration of barriers to dental care in poor communities has been assisted by a California Endowment Dennis A. Hunt Fund grant.

Otto has continued to write about oral health and other health and social issues as a freelance writer for the Post, a contributing writer for an online publication for oral health professionals called DrBicuspid.com, and as the editor of Street Sense, a newspaper produced and sold by homeless men and women in Washington, D.C.

The oral health topic pages will join AHCJ’s Core Topic pages on health reform and aging. The Core Topic pages are an effort to curate the organization’s resources, data and story ideas using “topic champions” – lead editors – to shape this material into practical guidance in covering stories on those topics. The oral health effort will be made possible thanks to support from the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Each specialty topic page includes glossaries, key concepts, reporting tip sheets, weekly blog items, first-person stories by fellow journalists, videos, data and more. The topic home page will serve as a launch pad to more resources, on healthjournalism.org and elsewhere.

Core TopicsHealth ReformAgingOther Topics

Future Core Topic pages will include:

  • Hospitals
  • Health Professionals
  • Health Insurance
  • Health Information Technology
  • Medical Studies
  • … and several others.

Members are invited to contact Otto via email (mary@healthjournalism.org) with questions or suggestions about what to include on the core topic site.

Journalists should learn about study design, evidence-based medicine

Earlier this month I saw on Twitter one of those collisions between journalism and wonkdom. Maybe “collision” isn’t the right word; maybe it was some kind of interspecies mating dance. Anyhow, the gist of it was that we, journalists, don’t know how to evaluate evidence and someone should step in and teach us.

So I stuck in my two cents (or, rather, my two tweets) pointing out that, yes, there is a need for training and, yes, there are places to get the training, including through AHCJ. (See more after the Twitter discussion.)

So, before I remind you about those resources, just a word on why we need them:

On the surface, it may seem that AHCJ houses two kinds of health journalists – those of us who report on the science side of things, and those of us who are more in a policy world. But some of us do both – and research/evidence/evaluating science are also becoming an increasing part of the underpinnings of policy beats. Value-based purchasing, comparative effectiveness, benefits of screening/prevention, quality measures, outcome research … these are all part of the health care reform story.

That doesn’t mean all of us must become  economists/biologists/epidemiologists/statisticians. Old fashioned reporting – including calling experts who can help us make sense of numbers  – is certainly part of the job. But it’s also good to have some sense of what the experts are talking about, what these numbers mean. Why a study on N=16 patients doesn’t really tell us that much. What do we mean by “endpoints,” “outcomes,” “progression?” What’s relative versus absolute risk? Etc.

So for those of you who haven’t  taken a cyber-stroll through the AHCJ website, take five minutes and check out tip sheets, resources and slim guides. Of particular relevance to this discussion is Gary Schwitzer’s slim guide, “Covering Medical Research.”  There’s also a tip sheet/PDF presentation by Schwitzer on “Understanding studies.” His Health News Watchdog blog is also useful.

Reporting on Health (at USC) also has a lot of useful resources, and this essay “Tricks of the Trade: Finding Nuggets in the River of Medical Studies” is a good entry point to understanding data. It’s by Lauran Neergard, a longtime Associated Press health and science writer.

In addition,  there’s a course called Medicine in the Media, sponsored by National Institute of Health’s Office of Medical Applications of Research.  It’s free, but you have to apply, and there’s not room for everyone.  I know of at least one recent summer (the only one I, personally, could have managed the timing!) it wasn’t given, and as of now, there’s nothing on the website about this year. But you can sign up for email notifications, so if you are interested, do that now because the deadline in past years has been early.

The Poynter Institute has some online modules, too. Lots of the focus is on new media and writing and story telling, but there is a math basics refresher for those of you who haven’t taken it since the SATs, some online Excel training, and a unit on reporting on nonprofits.

An aside –  another kind of data to watch out for: Polls. At the AHCJ conference in Philadelphia last year, we had a session on understanding political polls. Here are materials from that presentation, from Claudia Deane, associate director of public opinion and survey research, Kaiser Family Foundation, and representing the American Association for Public Opinion Research.

The basics are useful not just for political polls but for all those other polls that end up in health reporters’ inboxes. An awful lot of them are meaningless, either because of the sampling methodology (or lack thereof) or because the questions were written in such an apple pie, no-trade-offs way. Americans love pain control!  Americans want to cure cancer! Americans like healthy children! An online survey of doctors who may or may not be in a relevant specialty but who felt like clicking on the poll this week agree  with X, Y and Z.

We’ll take a look at other resources out there in future posts.

And one word of wisdom. Get familiar with these concepts and materials, but don’t necessarily try to cram your head overly full of information or skills  that you aren’t going to put to use right away.  When I was a Kaiser Media Fellow a few years ago, the program included three days of pretty intense Excel training. But my reporting project wasn’t data driven.  Having that basic familiarity with Excel is useful and it gives me a basis to build on if and when I need to. But, for me, a three-day crash course – without immediate application – was probably overkill. (Although we had a lot of good meals in St. Pete!)

[Editor’s note: If you’re looking for Excel help, check out AHCJ’s tip sheet “Intro to investigating health data using spreadsheets” or, for more advanced help, “Finding patterns and trends in health data: Pivot tables in spreadsheets.” Of course, there will be training in all of these topics and more at Health Journalism 2012.]

Joanne KenenJoanne Kenen (@JoanneKenen) is AHCJ’s health reform topic leader. If you have questions or suggestions for future resources, please send them to joanne@healthjournalism.org.