List of ER wait times improves for some hospitals

The ER waiting times for some Georgia hospitals have been reduced dramatically on a public federal website, thanks to some updated numbers.

Georgia Health News reported earlier this month that data on 11 hospitals showed wildly exaggerated times for ER waits before patients were discharged. Waits for an emergency department patient to see a health care professional were also listed as alarmingly high.

Those figures were grossly inflated – and incorrect – due to the fact that arrival times of the ER patients at the 11 hospitals were wrongly coded when the information was sent to the feds. Georgia Hospital Association has admitted responsibility for the error.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) officials told Georgia Health News when the error was uncovered that they were not changing the numbers.

But with newly updated figures, which are mixed in with the older, inaccurate numbers, Archbold Medical Center in Thomasville now is listed as 684 minutes as an average waiting time for a patient before being sent home. That’s down from 1,115 minutes, which was Archbold’s listed wait time last week.

And its average wait time for an emergency department patient to see a health care professional dropped to 569 minutes from 1,022 minutes.

“The effect you see is from the second quarter data we submitted being included with the first quarter data,’’ said Mark Lowe, an Archbold official, in an email to GHN.

The other Georgia hospitals with wildly exaggerated wait times listed were Memorial Hospital of Adel; North Georgia Medical Center in Ellijay; Berrien County Hospital in Nashville; Southeast Georgia Health System’s Brunswick and Camden hospitals; McDuffie Regional Medical Center in Thomson; Burke Medical Center in Waynesboro; Chatuge Regional Hospital in Hiawassee; Newton Medical Center in Covington; and Jeff Davis Hospital in Hazlehurst.

Some, but not all, of these hospitals’ wait times have shrunk similarly to Archbold’s drop.

A CMS spokesman told GHN that the quarterly update of the Hospital Compare website was done last week, and newly submitted data had been included.

A GHA vice president, Kevin Bloye, said Tuesday that “three months of good data is now being averaged with three months of bad data to make the data better than before, but still skewed unfavorably and inaccurately.’’

As part of the range of statistics on hospital quality, federal officials recently started reporting emergency room waiting times.

Long waiting times in hospital emergency departments can increase risks for patients, especially those who have serious illnesses, CMS’s website says.

Waiting times at different hospitals can vary widely, depending on the number of patients seen, ED staffing, efficiency, admission procedures, or the availability of inpatient beds, the federal site adds.