Business of Medicine

Courtesy of Chelsea Reed

On their last phone call, Chelsea Reed says her “proud” mother broke down, distraught about fears of dying alone in her long-term care facility, Rosewalk Village on Indianapolis’ east side.

Paige Pfleger / Side Effects Public Media

Across the Midwest and the nation, many COVID-19 cases have been concentrated in nursing homes. It’s often the result of an outbreak. But sometimes, it’s actually by design. 

Indiana To Release COVID-19 Data From Individual Nursing Homes

Jul 2, 2020
Brock Turner/ WFIU/WTIU News

After months of declining to release COVID-19 data from individual long-term care facilities, Indiana is building a public database of the information. It plans to release the data later this month.

All of Indiana’s neighboring states, and a growing number of states across the country, have made similar data public. But so far, Indiana has only released statewide totals for COVID-19 cases and deaths at these facilities.

Treva Steele visited her father every day after he moved to Greenwood Healthcare Center in Greenwood, Indiana, in February. Joe Barton, who was 73, was recovering from open heart surgery and on a ventilator.   

Courtesy of Lenore Williams

This is part of Essential Voices, a series of interviews with people confronting COVID-19.

Nearly half of Indiana’s COVID-19 deaths have been in long-term care facilities. Twenty-three-year-old Aubrey Baker is a qualified medication aid at Wildwood Healthcare Center, a nursing facility in Indianapolis. Her mother, Lenore Williams, oversees the center. They spoke to reporter Lauren Bavis about how the virus has impacted their work, and how it hit close to home. 

Courtesy of Marvin Miles

Marvin Miles got a call from his mother on March 27. She had started rehabilitation about a month earlier at Bethany Pointe Health Campus, a skilled nursing facility in Anderson, Indiana. They had spoken almost daily since then, but this call was concerning because it came at 1:35 a.m. 

“She was complaining about she couldn't breathe, and she had been pressing the nurses’ button for over an hour and no one would come in there,” Miles says.

Lindsey Reed / Oaknoll Retirement Residence

The elderly are especially vulnerable to COVID-19. The country’s first big outbreak was at a nursing home in Washington state, and more recently nursing homes and senior living facilities in places like Indiana, Illinois and Iowa have had experienced dozens of cases -- and deaths. Now, these places are facing a lot of pressure to keep residents safe -- and occupied. 

Lindsey Moon / Side Effects Public Media

Iowa is among the states with the fewest COVID-19 cases, but it still has over 175 confirmed cases and the total increases every day. The state’s hospitals, large and small, face a common problem as they get ready for a possible spike in patients: finding enough equipment.

flickr/niaid/CC BY 2.0

A new Illinois statute aims to boost flu shot rates among healthcare workers by making it harder for employees to decline the vaccine.

Lawmakers say this is important in light of last year’s flu season that killed more people than car crashes and drug overdoses. But some on the frontlines of public health worry that a law that’s not enforced will have little effect.

1,400 Nursing Homes Get Lower Medicare Ratings Because Of Staffing Concerns

Jul 30, 2018
Photo by Matt Sawyers is licensed under CC0. https://pixabay.com/en/senior-healthcare-home-medical-care-599806/

Medicare has lowered its star ratings for staffing levels in 1 in 11 of the nation’s nursing homes — almost 1,400 of them — because they either had inadequate numbers of registered nurses or failed to provide payroll data that proved they had the required nursing coverage, federal records released last week show.

Medicare only recently began collecting and publishing payroll data on the staffing of nursing homes as required by the Affordable Care Act of 2010, rather than relying as it had before on the nursing homes’ own unverified reports.

7 Years After Joplin Tornado, Mercy Builds Hospitals With Disaster In Mind

Jun 19, 2018
SARAH FENTEM | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

A visitor to the new wing of the Mercy hospital in Festus can likely tell immediately where the old building ends and the new part begins. The atrium still smells of fresh paint, and instead of dark, winding hallways, windows let in natural light.

Builders designed it to be prettier and more user-friendly. But Mercy Hospital Jefferson is safer, too.

Making its new hospitals safer has become a top priority for St. Louis-based based Mercy health system after one of the most destructive tornadoes in recent memory hit St. John’s Hospital in Joplin in 2011.

On a rare rainy night in Albuquerque, two dozen students are learning the proper way to care for older people. Teacher Liliana Reyes is reviewing the systems of the body — circulatory, respiratory and so on — to prepare them for an upcoming exam.

These students are seeking to join a workforce of about 3 million people who help older adults remain in their homes. They assist these clients with things like bathing, dressing, and taking medication on time.

Charlie Kaijo / For Kaiser Health News

Laura Cameron, then three months pregnant, tripped and fell in a parking lot and landed in the emergency room last May — her blood pressure was low and she was scared and in pain. She was flat on her back and plugged into a saline drip when a hospital employee approached her gurney to discuss how she would pay her hospital bill.

Nationwide IV Bag Shortage Hits Midwestern Hospitals

Jan 23, 2018
Master Sgt. Val Gemp / US Air Force

It’s been five months since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and wiped out houses, roads and the power grid, as well as factories that make prescription drugs and medical devices.

Updated at 12:39 p.m. ET

Health care workers who want to refuse to treat patients because of religious or moral beliefs will have a new defender in the Trump administration.

The top civil rights official at the Department of Health and Human Services is creating the Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom to protect doctors, nurses and other health care workers who refuse to take part in procedures like abortion or treat certain people because of moral or religious objections.

calvinnivlac / Flickr

The Senate Health and Provider Services Committee on Wednesday threw its support behind a bill that would require Indiana physicians to check the state prescription database — called INSPECT— before prescribing powerful drugs, including opioids. 


Miles Bryan / WBEZ

Over the past few months, medical professionals on Chicago’s South Side have been trying a new tactic to bring down the area’s infant mortality rate: find women of childbearing age and ask them about everything.

Really, everything.

You might not suspect that the success of the emerging field of precision medicine depends heavily on the couriers who push carts down hospital halls.

But samples taken during surgery may end up in poor shape by the time they get to the pathology lab — and that has serious implications for patients as well as for scientists who want to use that material to develop personalized tests and treatments that are safer and more effective.

Pharmacists Slow To Dispense Lifesaving Overdose Drug Naloxone

Dec 21, 2017
Sarah Fentem / Side Effects Public Media

Gale Dunham, a pharmacist in Calistoga, Calif., knows the devastation the opioid epidemic has wrought, and she is glad the anti-overdose drug naloxone is becoming more accessible.

How To Get Hospitals To Check A Patient's Drug History? Make It Easy.

Dec 11, 2017
Samantha Horton / Side Effects Public Media

Doctors move fast in the ER. Every second counts. That’s why Dr. Gina Huhnke is excited about a new way to quickly check her patients’ history with narcotics. She’s the emergency department director of Deaconess Midtown Hospital in Evansville.


Updated at 8 p.m. ET

CVS is preparing to buy the health insurance giant Aetna for $69 billion, the companies say.

Flurry of Federal and State Probes Target Insulin Drugmakers and Pharma Middlemen

Nov 4, 2017

With the price of a crucial diabetes drug skyrocketing, at least five states and a federal prosecutor are demanding information from insulin manufacturers and the pharmaceutical industry’s financial middlemen, seeking answers about their business relationships and the soaring price of diabetes drugs.

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