CMS Posts ED Wait Times, Rankling Some Hospitals

Cheryl Clark, March 7, 2013

Hospital executives are lashing out at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and its emergency department throughput metrics posted on the Hospital Compare website.

The measures are the federal government's attempt to hold hospitals publicly accountable for the speed and efficiency of their emergency departments by showing comparison wait times in each community and state. One purpose for posting the measures is to dissuade hospitals from "boarding" patients for hours in hallways or closets before admitting or releasing them.

The bone of contention is that some hospitals are shown with average patient wait times of longer than a day, times that some hospital leaders say are wildly incorrect because of coding errors, but which the agency won't fix.

See Also: CMS Quietly Makes Some ED Wait Times Public

The average time a patient spent in the ED before being admitted as an inpatient at Sayre Memorial Hospital, a 46-bed facility in Sayre, OK, for example, was 1,570 minutes or 26.16 hours, according to Hospital Compare.

Also at Sayre, the average time a patient waited in the ED after the doctor decided to admit him or her as an inpatient, but before the patient left the ED for his or her inpatient room, was 1,459 minutes, or 24.31 hours, according to the federal government's website.

Sayre's average times are the longest of any hospital in the nation for any ED measure now being reported.

"These numbers are not right. There's no way those are right," says Sayre's CEO John Lampert. "I took the job just eight months ago and I don't know where those numbers came from."

Sayre spokeswoman Rachel Wright adds that the times in those categories don't make sense because in three other ED measures, Sayre is below the national average. "We're accountable for the data, we're just saying it's being reported or coded differently; something is not transferring accurately."


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