As part of the convergence reporting class, I produced multimedia packages in a group of four students on a strict weekly deadline. Each week, we pitched stories, interviewed sources, then created a package with an audio or video piece, a web story, an infographic, a social media promotion and a photo gallery. These pieces were then pitched to local media such as KBIA-FM (mid-Missouri’s NPR affiliate) and KOMU-TV (mid-Missouri’s NBC affiliate).
Technology improvements in nursing homes provide benefits but bring financial concerns
By Waverly Colville, Lily Cusack, Gabe Dubois, Yutao Chen
Hospitals and other Medicare-funded facilities are transitioning from paper to digital records with help from government incentives. But for nursing homes, modernizing isn’t as easy.
Elizabeth Palena Hall is the long-term and post-acute care coordinator at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information. She said nursing homes are not eligible for government incentives under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act. However, many still feel like they are obligated to make the investment.
“With multiple medications and many different types of clinicians, there’s a huge need to coordinate care around many of the people in these environments,” Hall said. “That is driving the need to have tools and help communicate and provide better quality of care.”
The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act currently invests in the adoption of health information technology. The new technology includes computerized records, referred to as electronic health records and electronic medical records.
For hospitals, it’s easier to make the transition from paper to electronic records because of more funding. The act spent $19 billion on incentives in 2009. Two billion of those dollars was designated to help hospitals implement the technology. Medicare and Medicaid provided the other $17 billion to those who switched to electronic records before 2015.
Long-term health care providers, such as nursing homes, do not qualify for the government incentives. In order to go digital, the facilities must provide their own funds.
Switching to electronic medical records can cost an estimated $162,000 upfront, according to the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. After installation, they estimate $85,500 in maintenance expenses in the first year alone. For smaller facilities, that can be a significant hit to their budget.
Sheila Rich is a nurse at Adams Street Place, a nursing home in Jefferson City. They made the investment in electronic records a few years ago. Rich said these records have made coordinating with other health professionals more efficient.
“It’s better access for everyone,” Rich said. “You may have multiple people that need a chart at the same time, and with a paper chart, it’s just not possible for everyone to get their job done. When [the doctor is] here, I can still be doing my job in my office in that same chart, and he can be doing what he needs to be doing or the nurses can be doing what they need to be doing. It’s a lot handier that way.”
Despite the benefits, facilities are waiting as long as they can to make the investment, Rich said. This financial burden is putting them behind the curve.
“Not having a health IT system puts them at a disadvantage to be able to receive information from their referral partners, to be able to calculate quality measurement, to be able to coordinate care internally [and] to better manage admission information,” Hall said.
La Plata Nursing Home in La Plata is one of the nursing homes struggling to pay for this new technology. They considered different software programs for several years before deciding that better communication with fellow health care providers was worth the heavy price.
“It is expensive, but we are switching,” administrator Heather Witt said. “We have to do it.”
Nursing homes legally have the option to continue using paper. Realistically, they believe they have to make the change to stay efficient. Hall said the change is necessary.
“This is a key infrastructure for these providers to be able to better coordinate care and that is needed to be able to reach some of the goals for what we envision to be care in the future,” Hall said.
Stuck in the muck of sewer problems, Lake Mykee plans to merge with the city of Holts Summit
By: Waverly Colville, Falyn Page, Hannah Sandfeld, Lily Oppenheimer, Matt Horn
Social media promotional video:
The town of Lake Mykee is running out of time and options. Its aging sewer system no longer meets Environmental Protection Agency regulations. Lake Mykee’s sewer system is comprised of lagoons that have a monthly ammonia level that is about 15 times more than the allowable limit set by the EPA.
To solve this problem, Lake Mykee is combining its sewer system with neighboring town Holts Summit.
If the town were to keep the lagoons, they would have to build a treatment plant to meet regulations. This could cost up to $1.5 million. The 131 Lake Mykee homes’ sewer bill could double up to $100 per month to build a treatment plant or face consequences by the EPA and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Holts Summit Sewer Superintendent Keith Edwards said.
“It can really affect families,” Edwards said. “I understand you gotta take care of the environment but also it’s hard to say ‘well, a year ago this is fine, now it’s not fine.’”
Extending Holts Summit’s sewer system to Lake Mykee costs $700,000, according to the operating permit issued by the state’s Department of Natural Resources.
The cost of the sewer system will also decrease overall. Holts Summit’s population is 3,420, according to the 2013 United States Census Bureau. By adding Lake Mykee’s 354 residents, the flat operating costs are spread out over more people, reducing families’ bills, Edwards said.
Holts Summit City Administrator Rick Hess agrees and said, “It’s a large amount of money, but compared to everything else it’s a fairly small amount. Compared to what it would cost Lake Mykee residents to upgrade their lagoon system is a huge difference for them. It’s going to save them money in the long run and it’s going to aid infrastructure for us.”
But the sewage system is not the only problem Lake Mykee faces.
For Lake Mykee residents, waiting up to 45 minutes for police is a reality.
However, if this town votes to fully combine their government and city services with Holts Summit, response times could shorten to three minutes because Lake Mykee would be placed under the jurisdiction of the Holts Summit Police Department.
The two are voting on whether to merge into one municipality in April 2017.
The merge will also bring other economic benefits for both towns.
By merging, there are also more grants available to towns who meet certain population requirements to help infrastructure. These can fund any city service such as roads, the police department or other improvements. Hess said that Holts Summit has looked at applying for certain grants in the past, but was not eligible because of their small population.
“We’re able to grow the city,” Hess said.
Taxes would also decrease for residents.
Lake Mykee residents will no longer have to pay property tax because Holts Summit relies solely on a higher sales tax to fund the city.
Currently, Lake Mykee’s city government is staffed entirely by volunteers. The merge would allow Lake Mykee representatives to join Holts Summit’s paid city government.
“The world is becoming more and more complicated in terms of rules and regulations and that’s another reason that I personally feel that it’s important for us to consolidate into bigger operations,” said Jim Frazer, president of the Lake Mykee Board of Trustees.
The only resistance Rick Hess sees from residents of Lake Mykee is a “loss of identity” by joining another town. However, daily life in Lake Mykee will remain the same, Hess said. They will just be gaining access to more city resources.
“I think it’s a win-win situation for everyone involved,” Hess said. “I see no downside to this. Infrastructure is in place, it’s just a matter of hooking up (with) very little cost to anybody. Those people can then do away with their lagoon system.”
Some District 19 veterans defy national voting trends
By Allie Pecorin, Waverly Colville, Lexie Stoker, Lily Oppenheimer
The veteran most of us picture is in dark blue fatigues. He is male, white, age 65 and standing in front of a war memorial in full regalia, hand over his heart.
More than likely, he also votes Republican.
Jonathan Klingler is a post-doctoral fellow at Vanderbilt University who studies political opinion and veteran voting trends. After earning his doctorate in political science from Rochester University, Klingler began conducting research to try to understand the way military service influences political opinion.
Klingler’s research found that the veteran voting population has been growing more conservative in the past several election cycles.
“As you might expect, people who have been in the military are generally more conservative on several issues– social issues, economic issues, questions of law enforcement,” Klingler said.
At first glance, these findings make sense. Data from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs show that 82 percent of veterans are white. In Missouri, the number of white veterans is slightly higher at 88 percent. The demographics of the Republican Party mirror that stat with a 2012 Gallup Poll finding 89 percent of Republicans identify as white. Only 2 percent of the Republican Party identify as black, and 6 percent identify as Hispanic.
But Klingler found that the veteran voting trends actually have very little to do with race. His research found that all veterans, regardless of their race or gender, are more Republican than their non-veteran counterparts.
For his study, Klingler provided questionnaires to 1,000 veterans that gauged their opinions on a broad range of political topics. Their answers were then matched to non-veteran respondents who had identical race, gender, socioeconomic and other demographic statuses.
His research revealed that veterans tend to favor policies that discourage wealth redistribution, create stricter law enforcement policies and increase tariffs and other trade barriers – policy platforms that are generally championed by the Republican Party. The tendency to favor such policies is consistent even when race is factored in.
“It’s not just a bunch of very conservative, white veterans leading the mean to be this way when you have a bunch of very liberal, democratic, minority veterans,” Klinger said. “There is a general (conservative) swing across several groups.”
This is a trend that Steven Fines, a Boone County veteran’s service officer for the Missouri Veterans Commission, has noticed in Boone County, as well.
“If you find veterans of color or female veterans, they’re still going to trend right,” Fines said.
Klingler’s research supports this trend. While he has found that military service can have a direct effect on political opinion, Republicans are often more likely to enlist in the first place.
History might be the explanation.
From the 1980s until Operation Desert Storm, Klingler said the Republican Party aligned itself with agendas that align with platform positions supported by veterans. One such alignment was a shift toward a moral stance that appeals to veterans– the belief that the nation is in a state of moral decline.
Issues of national security also were a factor.
“Republican ownership of the issue of national security (during this time period) is one of the things that allowed them to pick up a lot of veteran votes,” Klingler said.
However, Klingler said that since the second Iraq War ,the Democratic Party has begun to position itself alongside national security issues. Still, Klingler’s data shows veterans are still leaning right, and fairly dramatically.
That could be changing.
Klingler said that more active duty servicemen were identifying as Democrats than as Republicans in 2015.
But in places like Boone County, the older veteran population still far outnumbers the young and recently returning veterans.
“A lot of the veterans that served in Vietnam, Korea and World War II were drafted and so a lot of that population is moving on, they’re passing away,” Fines said. “So, what’s going to be left is those that served mostly in Desert Storm or Operation Iraqi Freedom (and) Enduring Freedom.”
The young majority Democratic Party veterans could change the Republican Party leanings of the veteran voting bloc once they become the majority, although Klingler’s research shows these young veterans to be more conservative than their non-veteran counterparts.
As more and more veterans return from conflict in the Middle East, the image of a traditional veteran is transforming. The navy blue uniform has been replaced with a sand colored camouflage one. No longer is he an aging white man. She may be a woman or a person of color. Her voting tendencies may be changing, but slowly.
More than likely, she still votes Republican.
Link to social media campaign: https://www.instagram.com/team_three_times/