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Which Nearby Hospital Has the Longest Emergency Room Wait?

A Medicare database shows how hospitals across the Twin Cities—and the nation—compare for care.

If you go to Edina's Fairview Southdale emergency department, it’ll take nearly an hour on average before you’re seen by a health care professional. On the other hand, those who go to North Memorial in Robbinsdale will be seen in less than 15 minutes.

Those results can be seen in a new tool called Hospital Compare that lets people examine key measures of efficiency for 4,000 Medicare hospitals across the country.

“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,” Cheryl Clark, senior quality editor for HealthLeaders Media, wrote Thursday.

Data collected in 2011 and early 2012 also tracked how long it took for ER patients with broken bones to receive pain medication and how long the wait was for 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],” the article quoted Pines. “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 said the public focus 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.”

(A “bizarre glitch” by the Georgia Hospital Association showed wait times for 170 Georgia emergency rooms as “hopelessly inflated,” she said.)

The graph above shows the average wait time for patients to be seen by a medical professional at hospitals near Richfield.

To examine the complete report on nearby hospitals, 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 the hospitals you want to compare.

Scroll down to a yellow button labeled Compare Now, and click to display more details. Emergency department details are found in the tab labeled "Timely and Effecive Care."

Other tabs allows users to see patient survey results, whether hospitals are overusing medical imaging and how they compare in re-admissions, complications and deaths.

Were you surprised by any of the stats displayed?  Tell us in the comments.

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