A survey of newspaper coverage of HCFA hospital mortality data.
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A survey of newspaper coverage of HCFA hospital mortality data.

Filetype[PDF-1.33 MB]

  • English

  • Details:

    • Alternative Title:
      Public Health Rep
    • Description:
      A study that assessed newspaper coverage of the 1986 Hospital Mortality Data for Medicare Patients released by the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is described. Media interpretation of Federal information about the quality of hospital medical care is also discussed. A sample of 68 articles from newspapers serving urban areas of various sizes in all regions of the United States was analyzed. Articles were coded into classifications according to how the news was played, headline bias (positive-negative-neutral), hospital mentions, quote sources, explanations for excessively high mortality rates, urban area population, and geographic region. The findings indicated that HCFA's release of the 1986 hospital mortality data received heavy news coverage. There were twice as many negative headlines as positive ones, although nearly 95 percent of the hospitals had mortality rates within expected ranges. Quotes from representatives of hospitals predominated in the newspaper articles, and they often blamed some aspect of the HCFA data for higher-than-expected mortality rates. Newspaper attention to the quality of hospital care clearly raised consumer awareness of the idea that health care quality can vary. The newspaper articles, however, provided no guidance on obtaining valid data or on using it to make health care choices.
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