If you go to the emergency department at Sharp Grossmont Hospital, you are likely to wait up to three times longer than the national average before you receive care, according to a recently released federal report.
The average time a patient had to wait in the ER "before they were seen by a healthcare professional" was nearly two hours – 101 minutes to be exact, according to the report.
The state average is 33 minutes, while the national average is 30 minutes.
Sharp Grossmont also had higher than average wait times a) before being admitted as inpatients (368 minutes / 277 national average), b) time spent in ER before being sent home (277 minutes / 140 national average), and c) time spent after being admitted before being moved to inpatient room (142 minutes / 98 national average).
The hospital, however, did meet the national average of time spent in the ER with a broken bone, before receiving pain medication. The hospital's average time was 62 minutes, 7 minutes less than the state average and equal to the national average.
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 Thursday.
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. Other data showed 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. 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.”
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 Grossmont Hospital ER saw 8,141 patients in 2011, with 5 percent (about 407) leaving the ER before being seen. That compares with the 5 percent leave-before-being-seen rate at Alvarado Hospital Medical center, 3 percent at Sharp Chula Vista and 5 percent at Paradise Valley Hospital.
In any case, residents can compare the ER care at Sharp Grossmont 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 harp 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.