The numbers were better for patients having in-patient surgery and receiving the right antibiotic in a timely way. But Carney told the government that its data for this measure was based on a sample of cases. So, then, the rates are ambiguous and may not indicate the hospital does a better job with patients having surgery in the hospital. Giving patients the right antibiotic at the right time is low-tech medicine, but it’s critical to a good outcome. There aren’t too many press releases that talk about that. All of which means journos must dig deeper to get the real story.

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Trudy Lieberman is a fellow at the Center for Advancing Health and a longtime contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the lead writer for The Second Opinion, CJR’s healthcare desk, which is part of our United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.