December 9, 2013

If you haven’t examined how your local hospitals performed in the latest Medicare surveys, you’re missing out on some important stories with high likely readership.

Jordan Rau of Kaiser Health News joined us for a chat on how journalists can use the surveys.

The surveys, one of the first parts of the Affordable Care Act, probe patient attitudes on such questions as how carefully doctors and nurses listened to them, how often they were treated with courtesy and respect, how well their pain was controlled and, among other things, where they’d rate the hospital on a scale from “worst hospital possible” to “best hospital possible.”

The results of the surveys are used to provide more than 2,500 hospitals nationwide with federal government bonuses or penalties, depending on the survey results.

Rau, a senior correspondent for Kaiser Health News, covered the surveys extensively last month from the national perspective, accompanied by useful charts and spreadsheets. Still largely untold are local stories exploring patient attitudes toward individual hospitals. Rau can direct you to easy-to-access databases on the Medicare website that compare individual hospitals with one another and with national and statewide averages. Interviews that you’d do with local hospital workers and officials — as well as patients and advocacy groups — could significantly advance your audiences’ understanding of healthcare in your region.

Here’s an example of how the St. Louis Post-Dispatch localized the quality-incentive story with a focus on hospitals in its region.

Here’s a pdf of the questionnaire that patients are asked to complete.

Bring your questions to our online chat and walk away with the tools to write stories that will impact your community.

Check out NewsU resources for covering Medicare. Those resources and this live chat are funded by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation as part of the McCormick Specialized Reporting Institutes program.

You can replay this chat at anytime and find the rest of our archives at


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Bill Mitchell is CEO and publisher of the National Catholic Reporter. He was editor of Poynter Online from 1999 to 2009. Before joining Poynter, he…
Bill Mitchell

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