Las Vegas Sun

December 18, 2014

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Sun wins journalism awards for investigative hospital care series

Marshall Allen

Marshall Allen

Alex Richards

Alex Richards

The series “Do No Harm: Hospital Care in Las Vegas,” which revealed how patients are infected or injured while hospitalized, has been recognized by two journalism organizations — one specializing in business reporting and the other in health care coverage.

The Society of American Business Editors and Writers, which honors excellence in business and financial journalism across all platforms, named the series the best investigative work among newspapers with Sunday circulations between 100,000 and 200,000.

The series also was honored by SABEW in the category Creative Use Across Multiple Platforms for newspapers with circulations from 25,000 to 500,000. And the Association of Health Care Journalists this week named the series the second best multimedia health care story in the country. First place in that competition went to the national, nonprofit investigative organization ProPublica, which examined the high costs and hidden perils of dialysis.

The latest awards follow last week’s announcement that reporters Marshall Allen and Alex Richards, who researched and wrote “Do No Harm,” won a national prize in the premier category, investigative reporting, in the Scripps Howard Foundation National Journalism Awards. Judges cited their work “for lifting the veil of secrecy around widespread medical errors and infections contracted at local hospitals.”

Allen and Richards also have received the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, sponsored by Harvard University’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy.

“Do No Harm,” which represented more than two years of reporting, identified the preventable infections and injuries — including surgical mishaps — that have occurred in Las Vegas hospitals. The series was based on a review of 2.9 million patient billing records that had been turned over by hospitals to the state for analysis but which had gone unexamined until the Sun obtained them.

Allen and Richards set out to impose a new openness about the quality of hospital care and to hold facilities accountable for patient outcomes. Their findings, presented in a five-part newspaper series and a multimedia presentation at LasVegasSun.com, has prompted some hospitals to post patient care data that previously was not publicly disclosed, and triggered draft bills in the Nevada Legislature to force hospitals to be more transparent in the disclosure of data about the quality of patient care.

To put the findings of the data in human context, Allen interviewed 250 doctors, nurses, hospital administrators and patients who told their stories of harm suffered in Las Vegas hospitals. Allen also examined the fundamental reasons why Las Vegas hospitals are deficient in various areas, and concluded with suggestions of what they can do to improve patient care, based on successful initiatives elsewhere in the country. Allen has since left the Sun to write about national health care issues for ProPublica.

To complement the reporting of Allen and Richards, the Sun built an elaborate multimedia site that included interactive graphics, video, documents and a forum for readers to share how they have been affected by hospital care in Las Vegas.

Richards, who was the Sun’s computer-assisted reporting specialist, was primarily responsible for examining and analyzing the data. He has since left the Sun for The Chronicle of Higher Education.

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