Across the country, patients spend an average of four hours waiting to be seen in the emergency room.
The longer a patient waits to be seen, the greater chance their sickness will worsen. So, in the increasingly competitive health care market, one North Texas ER is making a lofty promise -- and putting cold hard cash behind it.
"Fifteen minutes after your paperwork is complete to see the ER doctor," says Dr. Hermant Vankawala, "or, your entire visit is free."
That's the 15-minute "door to doc" guarantee being made at the 24-hour Emergency Room at the Hospital at Craig Ranch in McKinney.
It's not just that this ER is new with only eight beds or that the waiting room isn't exactly packed yet. Administrators say they've eliminated delays in the system that mean patients wait longer for everything.
For example, labwork is done in the ER. X-rays and CAT scans are a few yards from patient rooms. In major hospitals with large emergency rooms, those procedures are often done by different departments in a different part of the building. Results, then, take extra time to make it back into the ER physician's hands.
"As soon as the scans are completed," says Dr. Vankawala, "they are pushed to both the physicians viewer as well as the teleradiologist."
Patricia Hamilton had just finished her check-in paperwork when a nurse came calling. Four minutes later she was having an EKG.Nine minutes after walking in the door, she was seen by a doctor.
She wasn't sure what caught her breath more -- the chest pain -- or the quick service.
"I've never been seen by a doctor this fast even in the doctor's office," says Hamilton. "It's amazing."
In her case, it also resulted in quicker answers that brought relief.
The downside to smaller ERs like the 24-Hour Emergency Room is they don't have staffing to handle every emergency. In most cases after stabilizing a patient, they are transferred to a specialty hospital.