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How Long Will You Wait to See An ER Doc Near O'Fallon?

New Medicare database shows how hospitals across serving the region — and the rest of the nation — compare for care. Would the wait times for area emergency rooms surprise you?

If you go to the emergency room in Missouri, how long will it take before you see a medical professional? The federal government says 36 minutes on average.

For residents of O'Fallon Patch, whose closest emergency room options are Progress West and SSM St. Joseph, that's good news: Wait times at both hospitals were below the state average—six minutes less on average for St. Joseph, in fact.

In our chart above, you can compare the two nearest hospitals for O'Fallon Patch residents in key measures such as wait time to be seen in the emergency, wait times for painkillers and the amount of time patients waited to be admitted when needed (note: you can scroll down to the other comparisons by clicking within the chart).

Key measures of ER efficiency have been posted from hospitals taking part across the country, according to a report by Cheryl Clark, now senior quality editor for HealthLeaders Media.

“With precious little fanfare, Uncle Sam...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,” Clark wrote.

Data collected in 2011 and early 2012 also tracked things like how long it took for an ER patient with a broken bone to get pain medication, or 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. It even asked questions about how clean the bathrooms are.

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],” 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.”

Residents can compare the ER care for all Missouri hospitals in the national database on the Hospital Compare website. Type in a ZIP code, city or local hospital, then choose two or three hospitals to compare side-by-side.

This report card shows up to six performance measures reported by hospital emergency departments to the federal government. The original data was provided by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and summarized by Patch.

Average values for individual hospitals are median values. Sometimes, a sample of patients was used to estimate a performance measure’s value. Patch has excluded this value when the original data indicated the sample size was too small to provide a reliable estimate.

Statewide averages are calculated by Patch from each hospital's median values.

Patch editors Aaron Boyd, Ken Stone, Mark Maley and Martin Burch contributed to this report.

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