Emergency response times two to three times higher in rural areas

Report from the Janesville, WI Gazette:

If you’re having a heart attack in Fulton Township, you might wait twice as long for emergency personnel to reach you than if you lived in the city of Beloit.

If your house is on fire in Avon Township, it could take three times as long for firefighters to arrive than it would in the city of Janesville.

Depending on how far you live from a fire station and what kind of fire service your municipality has, you could wait anywhere from five to 18 minutes on average for emergency fire and medical response, according to a Gazette analysis.

In an emergency, extra minutes could mean the difference between life and death. For example, if your heart stops, brain damage can occur within four to six minutes, according to the American Heart Association.

But municipalities have to balance the desire for speedy response with the realities of rural living and what residents can or will pay for, local fire chiefs said. Though rural residents deal with longer emergency response times, they generally pay less in property taxes for fire service.

New Online Doctor Rating Site Treads Carefully

From the WSJ Health Blog:

A nonprofit called Consumers’ Checkbook is launching the latest effort to let patients rate their doctors. It’s hardly the first entrant in the space. Among others, WellPoint is working with the restaurant-raters Zagat. And various efforts by health plans to rate doctors have run into a lot of static, resulting last year in an agreement on a framework for such quality rankings.

But the nonprofit group’s president, Robert Krughoff, argues his effort’s got some special ingredients that should set it apart — and disarm the objections that many doctors have to such programs. Consumers’ Checkbook got names of members from Aetna, Cigna and UnitedHealth, as well as some Blue Cross Blue Shield plans, then surveyed them about their doctors. The rankings will only be used if the group gets a significant number of responses for a particular doctor (the average was 58 in Kansas City, for instance). The questions were developed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. And doctors were allowed to review their results before they were posted publicly, a key concession to physician queasiness with the whole concept of patient ratings.

Austrailian hospital patient waited ‘more than 45 hours’ for a bed

EM news from around the globe shows “a pint is a pound the world around.”  From PerthNow:

A WA emergency patient recently waited more than 45 hours for a hospital bed, according to a national report.

The report, a snapshot compiled for the Australian College of Emergency Medicine, found WA still had the worst emergency department overcrowding in Australia.

The snapshot of 79 emergency departments Australia-wide was undertaken at 10am on Monday, June 1.

Eight WA hospitals took part in the snapshot.

WA emergency departments recorded the worst overcrowding in the country.

About 35 per cent of patients in WA emergency departments waited longer than eight hours for treatment, with one patient waiting longer than 45 hours.

There were nine WA patients who had been waiting longer than 24 hours for a hospital bed.

Update: More Response to PriceWaterhouseCoopers’ Survey

More on the survey posted yesterday, from the GlobeNewswire:

In a recent survey of 1,000 American consumers, more than half (55%) believe that if universal health insurance coverage is passed by Congress it will not ensure equal access to care because of capacity constraints, particularly in hospital emergency rooms, according to a report released today by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC). A significant number of people, however, would be open to the idea of shared doctor appointments, online physician consultations, worksite clinics and other alternative ways of receiving medical care.

PricewaterhouseCoopers’ research reveals that universal coverage could swamp the health system unless simultaneous steps are taken to create innovative, new care delivery models that will expand access to care without adding costs to the system. Research conclusions and survey findings are in a new PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute (HRI) paper entitled “Jammed access: Widening the front door to healthcare.

Americans in general, not just the uninsured, are increasingly using costly hospital emergency rooms as the first point of entry into the health system, according to the PwC report. Per capita visits to hospital emergency departments already are at an all-time high, reflected in overcrowded emergency rooms, ambulance diversions and long waits. The reasons are varied and include shortage of physicians, lack of access to specialists, Medicaid reimbursement disincentives, high costs for the under-insured, poor coordination among practitioners, growing consumer demand and inefficiencies throughout the system, all of which have created jammed access points.

Full story here.