Tag Archives: usa today

1 in 5 nursing homes pull consistently bad ratings

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.

USA Today‘s Jack Gillum crunched the numbers and found that one-fifth of U.S. nursing homes have received two consecutive poor (one- or two-star) ratings in the federal Nursing Home Compare database since its launch in 2008.

Gillum looked for homes that started with a poor rating, then received at least one more within the past year. Among other things, Gillum found that “Nearly all homes that repeatedly received few overall stars — one or two stars — were owned by for-profit corporations,” and that “the lowest-rated homes had an average of 14 deficiencies per facility.” Consistent poor-performers can be found in all 50 states.

Gillum found that one of the reasons homes weren’t improving from year to year is that they’re often given little incentive to improve their ratings unless consumers are actively using Nursing Home Compare to inform their decisions.

Medicare spokeswoman Mary Kahn says a one-star nursing home is not necessarily a terrible facility. Even the lowest-rated homes must still meet baseline Medicare conditions, she says.

“If homes are not motivated to get better, chances are they won’t, and you’ll wind up in homes in poor-quality purgatory,” (Larry Minnix, CEO of American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging) says. “There should be two types of homes: the excellent and the non-existent.”

Covering the Health of Local Nursing HomesSlim guide:
Covering the Health of Local Nursing Homes

Check out AHCJ’s latest volume in its ongoing Slim Guide series. This reporting guide gives a head start to journalists who want to pursue stories about one of the most vulnerable populations – nursing home residents. It offers advice about Web sites, datasets, research and other resources. After reading this book, journalists can have more confidence in deciphering nursing home inspection reports, interviewing advocacy groups on all sides of an issue, locating key data, and more. The book includes story examples and ideas.

AHCJ publishes these reporting guides, with the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, to help journalists understand and accurately report on specific subjects.

Other resources
AHCJ resources

Airport dining proves to be a food safety challenge

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.

USA Today‘s Alison Young reviewed inspection reports for hundreds of restaurants at 10 airports and found a large number of critical violations, including 42 percent of the restaurants reviewed at Seattle-Tacoma and 77 percent of restaurants reviewed at Reagan National Airport.

seatac
“Food court in the Sea-Tac Airport.” Photo by WarderJack via Flickr

The most common culprits? “Grab-and-go” sandwiches and related foods, which aren’t kept cold enough to ward off food-borne pathogens.

Young notes that it’s hard to pinpoint the number sickened by airport sandwiches, as it’s difficult to track foodborne illness back to a specific source even when the customers aren’t constantly boarding airplanes and taking off for all corners of the earth.

Scott Hensley, on NPR’s Shots blog, recently noted an FDA warning to a Denver kitchen that prepared thousands of meals a day for airlines:

We can sum up the findings in the LSG SkyChefs facility a few months back with a four-letter abbreviation used to describe the roaches and other insects found there: TNTC.

That stands for Too Numerous To Count.

Hensley runs down some of the other problems found there and a reaction from the company spokeswoman.

Young to report on health for USA Today

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.

AHCJ member Alison Young has gone from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where she has been writing an investigative column, to USA Today, Matt Dornic reports on MediaBistro.com. Young, who previously covered the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will cover health on the paper’s national desk.

Young also is president of the Investigative Reporters and Editors’ board of directors.

USA Today matches hospital quality data, tourism

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.

USA Today‘s Steve Sternberg and Jack Gillum put a new spin on federal Hospital Compare ratings and other hospital quality data, matching the ratings, as well as data on death rates, with popular travel destinations and the locations of state parks. The reporters make the case that travelers should keep hospital quality data in mind when planning vacations.

From the story, which also includes a list of poorly-rated hospitals in travel hotspots:

A USA Today analysis finds two dozen hospitals near popular travel destinations, as compiled by the National Travel Monitor, have death rates among the worst in the USA. A separate analysis shows that one of every four hospitals with high death rates for heart attack, heart failure or pneumonia — 94 of 402 — are near state parks.

Related

AHCJ Vice President Charles Ornstein, whose own hospital quality coverage has earned national recognition, recently updated his comprehensive “Road map for covering your local hospital’s quality” tip sheet with links to state-by-state resources and additional nationwide tools for journalists looking into hospital quality.

AHCJ article: Making sense of hospital quality reports

Book: Covering the Quality of Health Care: A Resource Guide for Journalists

Slim guide: Covering Hospitals: Using Tools on the Web

Free online training

On the Beat: Covering Hospitals: An innovative simulation guides you through the sources and resources you need to tackle the beat. You’ll tap into the same tools that you’ll use on the job, and you’ll have a virtual mentor to walk you through the maze of reports, statistics and sources. One story line teaches you about reporting on hospital quality

Data

Investigating hospitals: Find stories with ready-to-use Hospital Compare data: AHCJ has made it easier for journalists to compare hospitals in their regions by generating spreadsheet files from the HHS database, allowing members to compare more than a few hospitals at a time, using spreadsheet or database software. AHCJ provides key documentation and explanatory material to help you understand the data possibilities and limits.

Tip sheets

Reports

Hot Health Headlines

Pentagon: War takes toll on soldiers’ children too

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.

USA Today‘s Gregg Zoroya reports the results of a Pentagon survey of more than 13,000 active-duty soldiers and their spouses intended to gauge the effect of the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan upon their children.

Among the survey’s findings:

  • Six in 10 say children’s fear and anxiety increase when a parent goes to war
  • A majority say their children have coped well, but a quarter say they have coped poorly or very poorly
  • A third say their child’s grades and behavior in school have suffered

Zoroya also reports on all the measures the military has taken to help parents cope, including family counselors, Sesame Street kits and graphic novels.