Subscribe to The Pulse

Quality 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

Ga. hospitals in middle of pack on quality bonuses

Slightly more than half of Georgia hospitals are receiving individual bonuses from Medicare for the quality of their services, a new analysis has found.

Medicare last month announced bonuses and penalties for nearly 3,000 U.S. hospitals as it links almost $1 billion in payments to the quality of care given to patients.

The state’s average of 51 percent of hospitals getting bonuses – and 49 percent getting penalties – tracks roughly with the national average of 52 percent and 48 percent, respectively, the Kaiser Health News analysis shows.

It’s part of a move by government and private insurers toward rewarding medical providers based on their quality of care, not the quantity of services.

The payment changes, which begin this month, mark the federal government’s most extensive effort yet to hold hospitals financially accountable for what happens to patients, a Kaiser Health News article said last month. full story

Meetings show health care not stuck in neutral

Two Atlanta gatherings Monday showed that health care isn’t waiting around for whatever happens to the 2010 reform law.

Gov. Nathan Deal’s committee on health exchanges met at the state Capitol for introductions and background on their task.

The federal law, officially known as the Affordable Care Act, requires states to have health exchanges running in January 2014. That’s when the law — if it’s upheld in the courts — is to be fully implemented. If Georgia or other states don’t create their own exchange mechanisms by then, the law says the federal government will run the operation in those states.

Health exchanges are online shopping malls where individuals can compare and buy insurance. Their purpose is to greatly enhance the insurance-buying power of individual consumers and employees of small businesses.

Ryan Teague, deputy executive counsel for the governor, said the health reform law is ‘’a heavyhanded approach to expanding Medicaid.’’ But he told the exchange committee that however undesirable the Affordable Care Act may be, ”we have to deal with reality’’ and not ignore the law’s existence.

The committee, Teague said, will have the opportunity to fashion something that “we would have done on our own.’’ full story

Safety effort seeking to reduce hospital errors

Patient safety has been a top-shelf theme in health care for years.

But alarming data continue to demonstrate potential dangers of a health care experience. The safety numbers include:

  • A study published in the journal Health Affairs in April found that on average, one in three patients admitted to a hospital suffers a medical error or adverse event.
  • An estimated 1.7 million Americans annually suffer an infection acquired in a hospital, leading to about 100,000 deaths per year.
  • On average, one in seven Medicare beneficiaries is harmed during the course of care, which costs the federal government an estimated $4.4 billion a year.

A public-private partnership led by the Obama administration aims to reduce medical errors and the enormous costs associated with them.

The Partnership for Patients proposes to unite hospital systems, employers, insurers, medical providers and patients to help make the health care system safer. The goals: to lower hospital-acquired conditions by 40 percent in three years, saving 60,000 lives; and to reduce patient readmissions to hospitals by 20 percent over that same time period.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through the health reform law, is investing $1 billion in the safety initiative.

The health system falls short on safety  “far too often, for too many patients,’’ Anton Gunn, regional director of HHS, said at an Atlanta event Tuesday describing the initiative. Providing medical services safely, he added, ‘’is a lot cheaper than doing it wrong in the first place.’’

HHS says more 500 hospitals, along with physicians, nurses groups, consumer groups and employers have pledged their support. Companies including Walmart, IBM, Intel, and Johnson & Johnson have joined. full story

  • Sign up for our mailing list.