Thursday, March 12, 2015

Where are the obvious and hard questions?

I don't want this to seem like I am picking on any one newspaper, but this one has the most "ink" in our region and therefore its reports carry the most weight in terms of public understanding and opinion.  The most frustrating thing to see is when a corporation spouts off its "message," and the newspaper lets it just sit there without asking the obvious and hard questions.

In today's story, Partners Healthcare System, in response to concerns raised by the Attorney General and the Health Policy Commission, promised that it would raise rates for 70 newly acquired doctors "only" by the rate of inflation for the next five years.  No one asked what would happen after that.

More seriously, there's this excerpt:

At the beginning of 2016, the Harbor doctors will join the group of about 1,500 physicians at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Officials at Partners and Harbor said the deal will improve the coordination of patient care and eventually lower costs.

“This integration will ultimately reduce health care costs by providing South Shore patients with a thoughtful, coordinated approach to their health care,” said Dr. Jessica C. Dudley, chief medical officer of the Brigham and Women’s Physician Organization.

The obvious questions are:

How will you reduce health care costs?
By reduce, do you mean an absolute reduction or a reduction relative to inflation or prior trends?
What do you mean by ultimately?
What assurances will you make to the public and to policy-makers that it will happen?
How will this reduction be measured and reported?
Will you be transparent about the total medical costs per patient seen by doctors in this group, now and in the future?

Well, either the questions weren't asked, or there was insufficient space in the newspaper to print the answers.  Either way, an unsupported assertion gets introduced into the public record with no chance of validation or rebuttal.


Pia Christensen said...

Here are some other questions that reporters should ask when health systems merge or "consolidate."

Anonymous said...

are you really surprised that truth is not the primary concern of journalists?

look at our political system.

Most journalists pick a "team" and then spin as much as possible to support that team, be it Left, Right, causes like "Business", "Ecology"

Or for the healthcare sector, - Does the U.S. have the best healthcare in the world? or the healthcare which is almost twice as expensive that other rich countries on a percentage of GDP basis with worse outcomes for all but the upper middle class and rich?

When journalists lose the habit of pursuing truth, it pervades all of their reporting.

Or maybe Partners is just too powerful to "embarrass" with tough questions.

massmotorist said...

Paul, write a letter to the editor. I'd bet you they would publish it.

Paul Levy said...

Well no they wouldn't, likely, plus they would edit it down, plus I have more health care savvy readers here than I would in the letters section of the paper.

Anonymous said...

Not just that, but David Bakers' Answers for Lisa blog talks about how a local newspaper with ties to a hospital exec certainly didn't get nothing about the lawsuits in his paper published. I think one of the reasons the internet is such a threat is because people can raise things like the issues you bring up, without the $$$ and conflicts of interest involved. Most people dont' want the truth to come out - meaning the admins and the like.