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Cuyahoga Falls Area Hospitals ER Wait Times; Fed Report Compares Data

Medicare database shows how hospitals across region — and nation — compare for care.

If you go to the emergency room at nearby Summa Western Reserve Hospital with a broken bone, how long will it take before you get pain medicine? 

The federal government says 72 minutes on average.

That’s worse than the wait for a pain pill at Summa Health Systems Hospitals in Akron (43 minutes) and Akron General Medical Center (42 minutes), according to a new database causing some hospital officials nationwide to cringe.

Data for the Akron General Health and Wellness System North hospital near the Steels Corners interchange was unavailable.

Key measures of ER efficiency have been posted from hospitals taking part across the country, according to a report by former Union-Tribune writer Cheryl Clark, now senior quality editor for HealthLeaders Media.

“With precious little fanfare, Uncle Sam last month rolled out a big, fat database with seven measures comparing a service that many people — healthcare providers and patients alike — consider the most critical any hospital can provide,” Clark wrote.

Data collected in 2011 and early 2012 also tracked how long it took for an ER patient to be seen by a healthcare professional and how long the wait was to get a bed if they needed admission.

Average wait times of patients who sat in the emergency room lobby at all three Falls-area hospitals, before being admitted, varies.

At Summa Western Reserve in Cuyahoga Falls patients waited an average of 4.4 hours before being admitted.

The ER wait is longer at Summa Health Systems in Akron, where patients waited on average more than 5 hours. At Akron General, the average ER wait was 4.6 hours before being admitted.

Other data show how long patients spent in the ER before being sent home and whether they received a brain scan if they might have suffered a stroke.

Clark interviewed Dr. Jesse Pines, an emergency room doctor and researcher who directs the center for healthcare quality at George Washington University.

“The theory is that when hospitals report this information, it makes them focus on it, and improve throughout their [Emergency Department],” Pines was quoted as saying.

“But it’s very hard to do," Pines said. "Certain performance measures are easier to fix — like simple process measures like giving patients an aspirin — than improving ED throughput, which involves development of interdisciplinary teams.”

Pines told Clark the public focus good pushes hospital administrators to focus on the emergency room as well as other metrics.

In a column, Clark said she thought the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services would “make a bigger fuss about such a major release.”

She added:

Certainly with so much concern about ED overcrowding, and the number of patients being boarded in hospital hallways and even closets, coughing on each other and getting sicker as they wait, a three-month picture of the state of an ED’s throughput  speed should be a very big deal.

But after a few conversations with emergency care experts who know how to read between the lines of this 29,664-record database, I started to realize how raw and flawed this effort still is.

She said a “bizarre glitch” by the Georgia Hospital Association showed wait times for 170 Georgia emergency rooms as “hopelessly inflated.”

The database said the Sharp Coronado Hospital ER saw 5,923 patients in 2011, with 1 percent (about 60) leaving the ER before being seen. That compares with the 3 percent leave-before-being-seen rate at Sharp Chula Vista and 5 percent at Paradise Valley Hospital. 

In any case, residents can compare the ER care at Sharp Coronado with any two other local hospitals in the national database.

First go to the Hospital Compare website. Then type in your ZIP code, city or local hospital. When a list of hospitals is displayed, put a checkmark next to two or three hospitals.

Scroll down to a yellow button labeled Compare Now, and click to display more details. Look for a tab called Timely and Effecive Care and click that.

Finally, scroll down to a section called Timely Emergency Department Care. A green button allows you to “View More Details,” displaying something like this page comparing La Mesa’s Sharp Grossmont Hospital against nearby Alvarado Hospital Medical Center and the Kaiser hospital on San Diego’s Zion Avenue.

Were you surprised by any of the stats displayed? Tell us in the comments.

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