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CMS Quietly Makes Some ED Wait Times Public

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, March 7, 2013

I took a look at just a few larger hospitals, just to see the spread. For ED-1, the time patients spent in the ED before they were admitted to the hospital as an inpatient, the average wait times ranged from 979 minutes or nearly 16.5 hours at 745-bed Los Angeles County/University of Southern California Medical Center, to 2.5 hours at 460-bed Atlanta Medical Center in Atlanta, GA, to 2.8 hours at 198-bed Swedish Medical Center in Seattle.

One could say that big city hospitals that are more likely to have people in their EDs who are poor, and use the hospital as a primary care doctor's office, might be more crowded, and have more waits. That would be understandable.

But even in my own urban neck of the woods, San Diego, CA, the three hospitals within a few miles of my home: UCSD Medical Center, Scripps Mercy Hospital, and Sharp Memorial, which treat many of the same populations, all show varying times on most of the seven measures. 

For example, I would wait 22 minutes to be seen by a healthcare professional at Scripps Mercy, 27 minutes at Sharp (just under the state average of 33 minutes) but 78 minutes at UCSD.  But if I wanted pain medication for a broken bone, I would get it faster at Sharp, in 54 minutes, as opposed to 70 at Scripps Mercy and 85 minutes at UCSD, longer than the state average of 69 minutes.

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