Not many hospitals report cancer survival rate data, says Robin Respaut of Reuters. There are no reporting regulations for those who do. When she and reporter Sharon Begley looked at the numbers, data reported by the Cancer Treatment Centers of America stood out. They write:
“What sets CTCA apart is that rejecting certain patients and, even more, culling some of its patients from its survival data lets the company tout in ads and post on its website patient outcomes that look dramatically better than they would if the company treated all comers.”
Looking into the privately held company and its numbers took some digging, says Robin, who does investigative research at Reuters. Some of the sources she found can be useful for healthcare reporters, especially those in markets that have Cancer Treatment Center of America hospitals.
For the Cancer Treatment Centers of America story, the searches led her to Congressional testimony in New Hampshire, where the health system sought to open a location. The company’s push to bypass the state’s certificate of need requirement generated a lot of a debate and paperwork. Through public records requests, Robin got testimony from hearings as well as additional information about it survival rates. For instance, one document included longer term studies than she had seen on the company’s website, she says.
Legal searches led to a lawsuit filed in Delaware by former president and CEO Robert Lane. That provided a huge amount of background about how the company was founded, she says. She warns that many suits use the hospitals’ names rather than “Cancer Treatment Centers of America.” For example, the Philadelphia location operates as Eastern Regional Medical Center.
Finally, Robin recommends the Association of Health Care Journalists’ Hospital Inspections site that offers federal health inspection reports.