When you're in Somerville and you need to go to the emergency room, which hospital is the most efficient? It depends on what you mean, according to data released by the Center for Medicare & Medicid Services at medicare.gov.
At three of the hospitals closest to Somerville, emergency room wait times varied, though most were below the national and state average.
Massachusetts General Hospital had the quickest emergency room, according to the data. On average, patients waited 10 minutes at MGH before being seen by a healthcare professional. The wait time was 20 minutes at Cambridge Health Alliance in Inman Square, and it was 49 minutes at Mount Auburn Hospital.
The state average is 40 minutes and the national average is 30 minutes, according to medicare.gov.
It's worth noting the Cambridge Health Alliance Somerville Hospital campus—commonly refered to as Somerville Hospital—was not listed by medicare.gov, even though it has a 24-hour emergency room. At the Cambridge Health Alliance website, you can view current wait times at all three of the health organization's campuses (in Cambridge, Somerville and Whidden.)
“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,” wrote Clark.
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 attention 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.”
More Boston-Area Hospital Wait Times
In any case, residents can compare the ER care at any three 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 there allows you to “View More Details,”
Were you surprised by any of the stats displayed? Tell us in the comments.