IRE Conference Blog

Investigating with healthcare data

By Gwen Girsdansky

Jeff Donn, from the Associated Press, speaks during a panel on investigating health care with data. Photo: Travis Hartman.

A member of a national investigative team and a data editor shared how they negotiate health care coverage on Thursday.

Jeff Donn of The Associated Press discussed his investigation into the abuse of the human growth hormone. He said that there were a couple tricky areas when investigating HGH, including a common problem: the data are poorly normalized. For instance, the same name might be spelled in different ways, such as New York and N.Y.  Things such as Open Refine may help clean that data.

But sometimes the data don’t get at every angle a story needs to cover. In the case of HGH, how do you get at the gray or black market? He said that reporters may need to go beyond what the data offer by conducting interviews to tap into new areas.

David Donald, data editor for thr Center for Public Integrity, discussed his investigation into Medicare — Cracking the Codes. He said that it is helpful not only to bring in experts on health or health care, but to also bring in an economist.

Gwen Girsdansky is a journalism student at the University of Missouri



  • John Nelson: Dec. 19, 2013 at 11:21 a.m.

    How much can a non-profit hospital pay for an executives elective surgery? Bellin hospital CNO received nearly $100,000 for her surgery recently , as well as the usual $30,000 year end bonus. Is there a limit on executive perks for non-profit hospitals?

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