If you go to the emergency room at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak with a broken bone, how long will it take before you get pain medicine?
The federal government says 63 minutes on average, according to a new database causing some hospital officials nationwide to cringe.
That's shorter than the wait for a pain pill at Crittenton Hospital Medical Center in Rochester (65 minutes) or Beaumont Hospital in Troy (68 minutes). However, it's longer than the state average (57 minutes) and the national average (62 minutes).
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 – health care 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 health care 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 health care 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.”
Local Emergencies react
William Anderson, M.D., chief of Emergency Services at Beaumont in Troy said that while the release of such information to the public challenges hospitals to improve, that Beaumont recently published an internal study of its own wait times, which also drives change.
"We know that the safest thing we can do is to have a patient seen as soon as possible by a physician and are continually devising new strategies to accomplish that goal. Our Emergency Department is currently piloting a number of projects with that goal in mind," Anderson said.
James Ziadeh, M.D., interim chief of Emergency Services at Beaumont in Royal Oak, added: "The reportable measure are only a fraction of the metrics we monitor and work towards improving. ... Beaumont has been involved in process improvement initiatives well before the release of this information."
In any case, residents can compare the ER care at Royal Oak Beaumont 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 check mark 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 Effective 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 Royal Oak Beaumont's ER against nearby Rochester Crittenton's and Troy Beaumont's.