As an embarrassingly basic, upper middle-class, educated, urban liberal, I consume news from the New York Times and NPR in unhealthy amounts. I find their healthcare coverage tends to range from not-great to appallingly bad.
A recent example is a case of the so-called "superbug" Candida auris at Northwestern University's hospital. In an unfortunate series of events, a women with pulmonary manifestations of worsening SLE ended up on ECMO — due to uncontrollable bleeding s/p lung biopsy — as a possible bridge to a lung transplant. After a month-long cannulation, she developed drug-resistant candidemia and died shortly thereafter. The article implies that had she not developed drug-resistant candidemia, she would have been completely fine. It never mentions that the odds of successfully treating even non-resistant candidemia while remaining cannulated were very close to zero, or even if she never developed candidemia, the odds of her getting donor lungs and surviving transplant after a month in an ICU were very close to zero. It also never mentions that people without prolonged immunosuppression and/or long-term indwelling catheters are not at risk for candidemia, whatever the drug resistance profile.
The article spins the whole thing as a lurid and unhelpful story about a cover-up because the state public health department isn't whipping up panic and naming every hospital with an identified case of C. auris (it's every big medical center with complex patients in the ICU). They quote the family as wishing the hospital had told them what they were doing to prevent C. auris before she got it (…?). The involved hospital unsurprisingly declined to comment, and the reporter included only a brief line from a CDC doc saying, "yep we are seeing some of this" without tempering any other elements of the story with, I don't know, expert commentary.
Anyway, this is far from the only example. I don't think I've ever heard or read a story in my preferred news sources on healthcare that left me thinking, "what a good article." Which got me wondering — are all the stories on all the topics so distorted, superficial and sensationalized but I just don't know enough about international politics or finance to know better on non-healthcare topics? Or is there something uniquely difficult about reporting on something so personal and emotionally fraught as healthcare? Are there any sources in mainstream news media that tend to do a good job with health reporting?
My impression is that all news is imperfect, especially the short-form, 4th-grade-reading-level article which need to drive clicks, but that reporting on the complexity of healthcare is inherently more difficult than reporting on a military skirmish or political disagreement. Is that just my bias showing (healthcare is special because it's my thing)? Your thoughts, meddit?
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