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Delivery of Care

Website data for some Ga. hospitals are flat wrong

One thousand, one hundred and fifteen minutes.

That’s 18.5 hours.

It’s not much time in the grand scheme of things. But it’s a very long time for a person who arrives in an ER to have to wait before being sent home.

The 1,115-minute figure is reported on a public federal website as the average time an emergency room patient waits at Archbold Medical Center in Thomasville before being sent home. The national average is just 140 minutes.

Archbold is also reported to have an average wait time for an emergency department patient to see a health care professional as 1,022 minutes. The national average is 30 minutes.

These figures on Archbold are alarming. But perhaps more alarming is that they are in error.

As first reported by HealthLeaders Media’s Cheryl Clark, there are grossly inflated — and incorrect — numbers about several Georgia hospitals’ emergency room care on Hospital Compare, a website run by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as a tool to help consumers pick a hospital.

Georgia Hospital Association admits responsibility for the error, saying the arrival times of the ER patients were wrongly coded.

But CMS officials told GHN on Tuesday that they’re not changing the numbers. full story

State says ‘no’ to standalone emergency facility

A proposal to build Georgia’s first freestanding emergency department has been rejected by state regulators.

But this week’s decision by Department of Community Health reviewers may not close the door to other proposals to build standalone emergency departments – which unlike traditional emergency rooms are not physically located at hospitals.

Two hospitals in Augusta are currently seeking to build a freestanding ED in Columbia County, west of the city.

The agency denied a request by HCA’s Eastside Medical Center in the Atlanta suburb of Snellville to build a $5.2 million emergency facility in the nearby town of Loganville, in Walton County.

The reviewers ruled that the Loganville area’s emergency needs were already being met, and that Eastside has capacity with its current ER.

Drew Tyrer, associate chief operating officer at Eastside Medical, noted Thursday that a large percentage of Loganville residents go to Eastside for emergency care.

“We are disappointed’’ by the state’s decision, Tyrer told GHN. He said he did not know whether Eastside would appeal the ruling, but added that he believes the state will eventually accept freestanding EDs. full story

Life sciences a growing sector in Georgia

2012 is shaping up as a robust year for the state’s life sciences industry.

The biggest splash came with the April announcement that Baxter International will build a $1 billion biopharmaceutical manufacturing plant in Stanton Springs, east of Atlanta, that will employ 1,500 people.

Charles Craig, president of Georgia Bio, an industry association, added Wednesday that other life sciences companies are expanding their workforces in the state.

Those companies include UCB, Dendreon, Arbor Pharmaceuticals and MiMedx, Craig said. “Life sciences in Georgia is having a great year, and it will continue in the future as the economy grows.’’

Craig made the comments at the 2012 Georgia Life Sciences Summit in Atlanta, where a University of Georgia report on the industry’s economic impact was released.

The life sciences industry includes companies involved in biotechnology, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, diagnostics and agricultural science. The industry and related university research, along with the CDC, have a $20 billion annual economic impact on the state and produce more than 94,000 jobs, the UGA report said.

“Georgia’s life sciences companies contribute substantial economic activity to Georgia,’’ said Jeffrey Humphreys, director of the UGA Selig Center for Economic Growth, who conducted the economic impact study.

The number of workers in life sciences rose 1.5 percent from 2007 to 2010, while overall employment for all industries in the state fell 7.9 percent, the report said. full story

Kaiser rated tops again in commercial health plans

Kaiser Permanente has once again been ranked No. 1 among Georgia’s commercial health plans by a major accrediting organization.

It’s the eighth consecutive year that Kaiser Permanente Georgia has been rated tops in the state by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA).

The NCQA, a leading managed care accrediting body, evaluates health plans based on customer satisfaction, treatment and prevention. Kaiser’s Georgia HMO scored an 86.8, placing it 36th among 474 ranked private health plans nationwide, a climb of 16 places in the past year.

The nonprofit has more than 235,000 members and 29 medical facilities in metro Atlanta and in Athens.

Kaiser Permanente of Georgia recently completed a $47 million expansion at its TownPark facility in Kennesaw, creating 100 jobs.

Kaiser Permanente of Georgia recently completed a $47 million expansion at its TownPark facility in Kennesaw, creating 100 jobs.

NCQA also ranked the three managed care plans covering Medicaid and PeachCare in Georgia. Amerigroup received an 83, and WellCare and Peach State each scored an 81.

The organization rated hundreds of Medicare health plans as well, with Kaiser’s Georgia plan again leader in the state, followed by Aetna’s HMO, UnitedHealthcare’s PPO, Humana’s PPO, Aetna’s PPO, United’s HMO/POS, and Blue Cross HMO.

Consumer Reports, which is publishing the rankings in its November issue and on its website, noted this week that the data are coming out shortly before many consumers will make important health insurance decisions. Open enrollment for private health plans is in October and November, while Medicare open enrollment runs from October 15 to December 7. full story

Analyzing the future of health reform law

Fifty-fifty.

Those are the odds given by a prominent Atlanta attorney that the Supreme Court will uphold the 2010 health reform law.

He gives the same odds that the justices will strike down the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in its entirety or part of the law that includes its controversial mandate for most individuals to purchase health insurance.

“The case is truly difficult,’’ said attorney Bruce Brown of McKenna Long & Aldridge, at an Atlanta conference this week held by the Georgia Charitable Care Network, an organization of charity clinics serving the uninsured in the state.

Brown, whose legal experience includes clerking for the late Chief Justice Warren Burger, said he believes the justices ‘‘will really grapple with’’ the complex law.

The court’s decision is likely to come in late June.

The stakes for Georgia and other states are high. The law, if upheld, would extend Medicaid coverage to 650,000 Georgians and private insurance to thousands more. The state’s current rate of uninsured is 20 percent, one of the highest percentages in the nation.

And a new study shows access to health care is a big problem in Georgia.

Adults in nearly every state saw their access to health services worsen during over the past decade, with Tennessee, Florida and Georgia having the greatest increase in people reporting having an unmet medical need, according to a study released Tuesday. full story

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