Learn from these journalists how they have covered various aspects of health information technology. They provide valuable tips and sources and explain how they got past the challenges to explain the complex world of HIT to their audiences.
Katie Palmer, Todd Feathers, & Simon Fondrie-Teitler
Following up on a story that found many hospitals were sharing patients' medical informaiton with Facebook, an investigative team of journalists from The Markup and STAT revealed websites run by dozens of telehealth startup companies also contained tracking tools that shared users’ potentially sensitive health information with big tech organizations.
There were continuing repercussions from an investigative story published in June 2022 by nonprofit news organization The Markup, in partnership with STAT, describing how Facebook receives sensitive medical information from hospital websites. In this “How I Did It,” Simon Fondrie-Teitler and Todd Feathers, two of the team members that worked on the investigation, spoke with AHCJ about how the story came about and what journalists can learn from the process.
WBUR radio host Meghna Chakrabarti was visiting her brother on the West Coast in summer 2021, enjoying a glass of wine when he said he thought artificial intelligence was going to change civilization. While the two went on to discuss other topics, the idea stuck in Chakrabarti’s mind, and she and senior editor and colleague Dorey Scheimer started researching the topic. Their original four-part series, “Smarter health: Artificial intelligence and the future of American health care,” aired in May and June 2022 on the Boston-based program “On Point.” It’s well worth a listen (or a read, the transcripts are posted online, too).
What happens to users of cutting-edge implants when the only company that makes the technology runs out of money? That’s the question journalists Eliza Strickland and Mark Harris set out to answer during a year-long investigation of the Argus II retinal implant, manufactured by a California company called Second Sight Medical Products. The investigation was published by IEEE Spectrum in February 2022 and covered in a Science Friday broadcast.
Emergency medics are regularly the first people to provide care to someone on the worst day of their life. But all too often, they are barred from accessing the electronic records of the health care systems where they drop their patients off, as journalist Marion Renault wrote for STAT in a story published in January: “A ‘black box’: Emergency medics remain locked out of electronic health records.”
Shayla Love, a senior staff writer at Motherboard (the tech arm of Vice.com), has written several articles about psychedelic drugs used as mental health therapy. One story, "Psychedelic Telemedicine Has Arrived. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?" took a public health turn. In this investigative story, Love explored problems arising from a company offering ketamine — an anesthetic drug that produces hallucinogenic effects — as a teletherapy, sending the medications to people’s homes and offering some guided therapy online.
Medical photographs are crucial to documenting disease in textbooks, journals and training medical students. But if inaccurate, physicians won’t get a clear enough picture of what disease looks like in people with different skin tones, which could impact health outcomes, wrote Georgina Gonzalez in an article published in The Verge.
In an article for Vox’s Recode, tech reporter Sara Morrison took a deep dive into data privacy — or a potential lack thereof — among mobile apps for substance use disorders, with implications for all health apps. She also covered the outdated laws that allow developers to share users’ information, often without full disclosure.
July 2021 Erin Brodwin is a San Francisco-based health tech reporter at STAT. Since 2019, she’s covered artificial intelligence in health care, written breaking news about health tech companies and covered wearable technologies and their impact on digital health. She advises us to think about whom tech innovation benefits or harms, its significance more broadly and whether something billed as innovative truly is.
June 2021 In the fall of 2018, an editor at AARP approached me about doing a health and technology feature for them. The timing was perfect because I am a tech toy geek and was thinking about how I could use all the gear I have to make some lifestyle changes in the coming year.
I jumped at the chance. The story was due in November to run in January.
September 2019 Arthur Allen, a health care editor at Politico Pro, was one of four veteran journalists selected for the inaugural 2019 AHCJ International Health Study Fellowship. Supported by the Commonwealth Fund, the six-month fellowship allows veteran U.S.-based health care journalists to pursue a story or project comparing an aspect of the U.S. health system to another country. Participants were allowed to study a developed European country.
Allen's first article to come out of the fellowship is “Lost in Translation: Epic goes to Denmark." The story is a comprehensive and often critical look at what happened when some Danish hospitals adopted Epic, the leading U.S. electronic health record system, which is headquartered in Wisconsin.
May 2019 Big data offers the promise that researchers can develop effective predictive models of infectious disease outbreaks, enabling public health leaders to better allocate resources to prevent and respond to outbreaks.
Scientist and journalism student Prajakta Dhapte became fascinated with this predictive process and decided to delve into the modeling arena for a story published in Georgia Health News. See what she learned in this Q&A with Bara Vaida.
September 2018 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 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.
Ross and Swetlitz describe their reporting process, and how initial stories on Watson for Oncology generated more leads and additional sources coming forward.
May 2018 John Carreyrou is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning journalist at the Wall Street Journal and author of "Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup" (release date May 21, 2018), which chronicles the spectacular fall of blood testing technology company Theranos.
In October 2015, Carreyrou began breaking stories on the Palo Alto, Calif.-based start up, which raised questions on its claim to have revolutionized the blood testing industry. Carreyrou was a keynote speaker at Health Journalism 2018. In his talk to fellow journalists, he explained how he got the Theranos story. His remarks have been condensed here.
March 2018 Congress, federal agencies, lobbyists and others are all very interested in where federal dollars are going and how policy is being shaped. As the editor for Politico’s eHealth, Arthur Allen found that his accumulated knowledge allows him to churn out a larger tale for the wider public that goes beyond the beat into other drivers of health care.
Recently, that resulted in "The ‘Frequent Flier’ Program That Grounded a Hospital’s Soaring Costs," a 5,000-word feature that ran in Politico’s magazine about how technology-related health programs were impacting the lives of patients and providers.
April 2017 So your editor wants you to cover health information technology at a conference. Whether it’s a product launch, upgrade or the policy implications of health IT, the prospect can be daunting. Veteran health IT journalist Neil Versel explains how he has covered health IT conferences in the past, including the gigantic HIMSS conference that takes place in Orlando every winter. His tips can help health reporters with little tech background break stories and gain confidence, leading to better coverage when they are back at home.