Schneider believes that when all hospitals are required to report ED wait time data, which will show up on a public database, the extent of that variation will be shocking, indicating widespread problems of resource utilization—such as with radiology or laboratory services—that contribute to patient flow "bottlenecks," she says.
"You're looking at a group of hospitals that volunteered to do this, and are doing it because they think their numbers look good," Schneider says. "The fact that these 74 hospitals are now doing it I think might be a wakeup call for hospitals, [many of whose leaders] may sit around and say, ‘Well, you know, everybody has problems with overcrowding.’ ... They're going to be shocked to find out that five hours is a bad number."
HealthLeaders Media requested comment from hospital officials for a dozen of the hospitals whose ED wait times are now posted on Hospital Compare, including seven of those reporting the longest wait times. One responded.
"Our mission and vision is transparency," says Mary Poole, chief marketing officer for Memorial Hermann Baptist Hospital. "Every time you see data like that, it gives you an opportunity to improve."
According to the CMS final rule that established this voluntary reporting program, the measures "address ED overcrowding ... Reducing the time patients remain in the ED can improve access to treatment and increase the quality of care, and capability of the hospital to provide adequate treatment to patients. ED overcrowding may result in delays in the administration of medication such as antibiotics for pneumonia and has been associated with perceptions of compromised emergency care."