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Hospital ED Wait Times Reveal Huge Variations

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, May 7, 2012

Best practice for this measure, Schneider says, is less than one hour. Thirty hospitals exceeded this time.

These time points were reported as part of a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services pilot program, announced Aug. 16, 2010, for patients who were sick enough to be admitted, and who were discharged during the first quarter of 2011. The data were posted in mid-April.

Reporting for all hospitals, based on a 2% pay-for-performance incentive, began Jan. 1, 2012, along with a third wait time measure (ED-3) for patients treated and released, and eventually, for determination of payment.

Schneider, an emergency room physician in Rochester, NY, says that while she's disappointed only 74 hospitals volunteered for this first round of reporting, emergency room physicians around the country are delighted that these wait times are now publicly reported.

"This is the first public look, and we're thrilled," Schneider says. "It says that CMS is finally paying attention to what we believe is the most important patient safety issue in all of emergency care: the issue of patients being boarded in the ED and staying for extensive periods of time." This issue was not only hidden from the public, she adds; "it was hidden from hospitals as well."

Some hospital leaders think that having patients wait three to four hours "is horrendous, but in other hospitals, three to four hours is a miracle. In those places, patients may spend two or three days waiting for a bed. There's a terrific spread," Schneider adds.

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3 comments on "Hospital ED Wait Times Reveal Huge Variations"


Bevmcpeak (5/16/2012 at 10:24 PM)
The 2012 criteria from McKesson requires a 3hour stay for chf , reeval, then decide for admit/observation .go figure

RAJAT BHATT (5/11/2012 at 3:53 PM)
The flip side is unnecessary and inappropriate admissions - in a bid to decrease ED WAIT TIMES the physicians start admitting everyone without waiting for an appropriate workup to see if the patient needs to be admitted

Jay Shiver (5/7/2012 at 11:03 AM)
Ms. Clark, Thank you. This has been my clarion call for 30 years. Perhaps now the idea will gain some traction. It's good to hear that there is recognition that much (most) of the turnaround / process issue rests outside the ED proper and is in the hands of the rest of the hospital. Thank you. Regards, jay