I spent a few hours back in June shadowing Dr. S. Michael Keller, the emergency room director at Marion General Hospital in Marion, Ind. The photos were for a story in The New York Times about patient satisfaction surveys and their effect on the opioid epidemic. Under the Affordable Care Act, hospitals’ Medicare reimbursements were tied to patient satisfaction surveys. The idea of this was to encourage quality care, but many health care professionals argue the surveys incentivized doctors to prescribe powerful and potentially addictive painkillers such as opioids to patients in order to score well on the surveys. Marion General bucked the trend by cutting opioid prescriptions, leading to a drastic drop in the patient satisfaction surveys.
A few weeks back, I spent a morning doing rounds with a group of pediatric residents in the postpartum unit at Franciscan St. Francis Hospital in Indianapolis. The photos were for a story in the Desert News looking at the shortage of primary-care physicians – which include family doctors, general internists and pediatricians – in the United States. The supply of primary-care physicians is so low the average wait time for an appointment is nearly two months.
Last month I photographed Dr. Pardeep Kumar, an internist in Terre Haute, Ind., for a story in The New York Times about a new medical coding system that went into effect on Oct. 1. The new system, ICD-10, is causing health care providers anxiety because it will change the fundamental way they describe illnesses and injuries in their computer systems. As Dr. Michael R. Marks, a Connecticut orthopedic surgeon, describes it in the story: “On Oct. 1, we will be speaking a new language. It’s like switching to German, after speaking English for 30 years.”
Earlier this month I photographed Dr. Richard Fogel, a heart doctor at St. Vincent Heart Center in Indianapolis, for a Wall Street Journal story outlining a recent dramatic increase in the price of a pair of heart medications, Isuprel (Isoproterenol) and Nitropress (Nitroprusside Sodium). The price hikes were not a result of improvements but rather the ownership: the prices rose drastically after the rights to the drugs were acquired by Valeant Pharmaceuticals in earlier this year.
For the past 10 months, the South Bend Tribune photo staff has been documenting the journey of a local woman, Kimmie Trethewey, who underwent bariatric surgery. My predecessor at the Tribune, Marcus Marter, shot a great deal of the story in the early stages, and I’ve had the opportunity to photograph Kimmie the past few months. The story is currently running in the paper as a series so I thought I’d share a few of my favorite frames of Kimmie.