We asked our readers to pick the best and most important stories of 2014, and the results match the level of upheaval the events caused in the industry.
Our Oct. 20 magazine cover story, “Ill-prepared: CDC and hospitals hit reset on Ebola preparedness,” was picked as the best of the year by 27% of respondents. Votes were spread sparsely across other choices, including “The ratings maze: Different scoring methods and results confound hospitals and consumers” and “Physicians as loss-leaders: Hospitals gamble that their big bet on highly paid docs will pay off.”
Readers also chose our story on the first Ebola case diagnosed and confirmed in the U.S. as the second-most-important breaking healthcare news story of the year—about 64% of respondents chose it at as one of the three most important stories in 2014. During the peak of the crisis last fall, the Ebola crisis consumed Americans' news feeds as the disease spread through West Africa and affected a handful of American hospitals that treated aid workers along with the Texas hospital that treated the first U.S. patient.
Two nurses were infected with the virus after treating Thomas Eric Duncan, the first patient diagnosed in the U.S., and nine patients were treated for Ebola here. All were healthcare workers except Duncan. The last patient diagnosed and treated in the U.S. was Dr. Craig Spencer, a Doctors Without Borders physician who was treated at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York City.
But even more—66% of readers—thought King v. Burwell was the biggest story of the year. The U.S. Supreme Court announced in November that it would hear the case, which asks whether the Affordable Care Act allows consumers to receive premium tax credits in states that have not established their own health insurance exchanges. Opponents say the law doesn't provide for tax credits in states relying on HealthCare.gov to enroll their residents in coverage.
Without the subsidies, millions of Americans wouldn't be able to afford insurance they purchased through the exchanges. Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for March 4, which means a decision will likely come by the end of June.
Readers were invited to choose three breaking stories as the most important in 2014. Other high-ranking stories included our recent coverage of the 30-day readmission penalties faced this past year by over 2,600 hospitals; the delay in implementing ICD-10; and criticism that EHR company Epic Systems Corp. has lagged on making its software interoperable with other vendors' technology.
The survey questions were answered by 100 readers who responded through our newsletters and ModernHealthcare.com.
Follow Adam Rubenfire on Twitter: @arubenfire