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Tip sheets

Journalists and experts have written about covering health reform and presented discussions on the topic at AHCJ conferences and workshops. This is a collection of the most useful and relevant tips. Click the title of the tip sheet that interests you and you will be asked to login because these are available exclusively to AHCJ members.

Featured tip sheet

How to assess health care innovation centers popping up in your region

October 2017
It seems like every week there's a new press release about a new health innovation center opening up shop.

Since passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, which emphasized the transition from patient volume to value, innovation centers have been popping up all over the country. Becker's Hospital Review has identified at least 50 hospitals with innovation programs.


Look for additional tip sheets based on subject:

Affordable Care Act (ACA)

Cloud computing

Consumers/patients

Cybersecurity

Data

Electronic medical records

Health care workforce

Health information exchange

Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA)

Medicare

Telemedicine

Wearables

Affordable Care Act (ACA)

How to assess health care innovation centers popping up in your region

October 2017
It seems like every week there's a new press release about a new health innovation center opening up shop.

Since passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, which emphasized the transition from patient volume to value, innovation centers have been popping up all over the country. Becker's Hospital Review has identified at least 50 hospitals with innovation programs.

How to gauge ‘success’ at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation

August 2015
One agency created by the Affordable Care Act is the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation (CMMI). As the name implies, its task is to innovate: trying new ways of delivering health care and testing new incentives and payment models. Some ideas are likely, even expected, to fail. Others may lead to new ways of delivering higher quality care for less money.

CMMI also is supposed to help spread new ideas so they’ll take root in the real world. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Serviceshas the authority to expand approaches that reduce spending – and halt those that do not. This is a more flexible approach than officials had with “demonstration projects” prior to the ACA.

Cloud computing

Covering how health care organizations are using 'cloud computing'

September 2016
In an age when health care organizations are managing massive amounts of (often sensitive) data, cloud computing can help with storage, analytics and security of that data. Cloud computing is the advanced use of information and communications technology to remotely deliver a range of services including programs, storage, processing and tools. 

Rebecca Vesely provides some background on cloud computing in health care, including what it is, how health care organizations use it, security concerns and what questions reporters should ask about how it's being used.

Cybersecurity

Tips for covering the hidden trade in patient data

February 2017
The big health data bazaar: Author and journalist Adam Tanner has tips for covering the hidden trade in patient data. Tanner has written two books on the subject, finding that the business of patient data is an opaque trade that is hard to unravel.

He says that the big health data bazaar is complicated but fascinating, and one worthy of further reporting as society grapples with the balance between allowing patients to control their own data, and allowing outsiders to study it to advance commerce and science.

This tip sheet provides an overview of what kind of data is out there, how it is used, who the big players are in the business, why we should care and questions that journalists should explore.

What to know before diving into a health care cybersecurity story

August 2016
Breaking news on cyberattacks at hospitals and health plans is increasingly common. Here are some tips on reporting on health care data security breaches, what questions to ask and helpful resources.

Data

Tips for covering the hidden trade in patient data

February 2017
The big health data bazaar: Author and journalist Adam Tanner has tips for covering the hidden trade in patient data. Tanner has written two books on the subject, finding that the business of patient data is an opaque trade that is hard to unravel.

He says that the big health data bazaar is complicated but fascinating, and one worthy of further reporting as society grapples with the balance between allowing patients to control their own data, and allowing outsiders to study it to advance commerce and science.

This tip sheet provides an overview of what kind of data is out there, how it is used, who the big players are in the business, why we should care and questions that journalists should explore.

Datasets: Reform by the Numbers

June 2014
As part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s efforts to monitor the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on coverage, utilization and affordability, the organization is working with a number of organizations to acquire and analyze timely and unique data. It has developed a website, Reform by the Numbers, which will house downloadable data, tables and graphs, in addition to policy briefs, blogs and other content that highlights key findings.

Electronic medical records

Preparing for overhaul of the VA's electronic health record system  

April 2017
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will decide this summer if it will replace its “home-grown” electronic health record (EHR) system with a commercial off-the-shelf product, VA Secretary David Shulkin, M.D., announced in March. Estimated costs range between $8 billion and $16 billion.

With the Trump administration promising big changes at the VA in terms of care access, coordination and delivery, reporters should keep in mind the colorful history and uncertain future of the VA's EHR system. Besides military spending and the border wall with Mexico, an EHR replacement is one of the few areas where President Donald J. Trump has proposed increasing spending.

Health care reporter Andis Robeznieks offers background and some tips for what to watch for as this process moves ahead.

Electronic medical records: Promised land or mirage?

October 2011
Electronic medical record systems have been touted for years as the way to fix health care. Proponents say electronic prescribing would warn against dangerous drug interactions and electronic access to patient medical information could reduce unnecessary procedures. States and the federal government, particuarly in the Affordable Care Act, are pursuing plans to link hospitals, doctors and patients electronically, dangling incentives for medical providers. Meanwhile, privacy problems continue to surface with information breaches such as occurred at Stanford Hospital, where data for 20,000 emergency room patients was posted on a commercial Web site, including names and diagnosis codes.

Lee Tien, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, discussed privacy and security concerns, as well as suggesting some possible story ideas for reporters.

Health care workforce

Changes coming to health care workforce ripe for coverage

Margot Sanger-Katz
Margot Sanger-Katz

April 2013
While employment in many industries tanked and weakly recovered, jobs in the health care sector have grown at a steady clip. But ever-growing health employment may be coming to an end, as National Journal reporter Margot Sanger-Katz learned when she reported on the health sector’s impact on the Pittsburgh economy.

Sanger-Katz urges reporters to cover the health care workforce in their own communities and, in this tip sheet, she points out potential stories, asks key questions and offers some essential resources. The changing health workforce is a key part of the story of health reform, and it hasn’t yet been well told.

Health information exchange

What you need to know about health information exchange

health information technologyJune 2016
Health information exchange is the action of sharing relevant health information electronically among trusted clinical partners regardless of physical location.

The information sharing can be about a single patient to enhance the care of that patient. Or, the information can be about a group of patients for the purposes of public health tracking and improvement. 

Learn more about the concept, why it's important and get some ideas on how to cover it locally.

MACRA

What is MACRA and what do reporters need to know about it?

July 2016
MACRA is the 2015 law that created Medicare's new payment system. It is the successor to the certified electronic medical record (EHR) Meaningful Use (MU) program. MACRA is set to have a profound effect on physician practices in the years to come.

In this tip sheet, Rebecca Vesely explains how it affects doctors, what the leading physicians' associations thing about it, how it affects the adoption of electronic health records, some key dates that reporters should keep in mind and links out to more explanations and resources.

Medicare

Latest innovations in Medicare

Don’t look only to Washington policymakers for strategies to control medical costs and improve care for our aging population. New pilot projects that could accomplish these goals, which are at the heart of health reform, are being tested in communities across the country. In this tip sheet, reporter Susan Jaffe provides an overview of projects sponsored by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, directs journalists to helpful resources, and supplies an extensive list of potential story ideas.

Telemedicine

Telemedicine: What reporters need to know

April 2016
Telemedicine is the use of telecommunications for clinical care. The American Telemedicine Association defines it as two-way video, email, smartphones, wireless tools and other forms of telecommunications that provide primary care, specialty care, remote monitoring, consumer and medical information and medical education. 

In writing and reporting on telemedicine, exact definitions matter because patients, organizations and policymakers see it differently. It can be very broad and open-ended or very precise. The explanation of exact uses can be finagled to manipulate payment and legality. 

Wearables

Exploring the exploding world of wearable health technology and devices

The terms “wearables,” “wearable technology“ and “wearable devices“ refer to electronic technologies that are worn on the body or clothing to perform computing tasks. Generally, wearables are able to store and transmit data, and information can be accessed in real-time.

The most commonly used wearables today are fitness trackers worn on the wrist made by FitBit, Jawbone and other competitors. But there are others: smart fabrics, smart backpacks, jewelry, headgear, belts and even diapers are in development. 

Rebecca Vesely, AHCJ's health IT core topic leader, breaks down exactly what they are, their economic impact, consumers' concerns and story ideas for reporters to pursue.