Emerus Emergency Hospital has sliced off a piece of Domino’s Pizza strategy with a “15 minutes or it’s free” guarantee.
The emergency care clock starts running when patients complete their paperwork, and ends when they see a physician. If the wait is more than 15 minutes, patient care is provided free of charge, without billing the insurance company.
The 15 minutes or it’s free offer was instituted Oct. 1 at three area Emerus Emergency Hospital facilities in Sugar Land, Tomball and the Galleria area, and is valid through Dec. 1.
So far, Emerus has paid for only one patient’s care.
“There was only one case and we took it as a learning opportunity,” says Dr. Dan Middlebrook, chief medical officer of Emerus Emergency Hospital.
“It was a volume issue and we can’t control that,” Middlebrook explains.
He estimates that most patients spend, on average, less than an hour filling out paperwork, being seen by a physician, or having diagnostic tests such as CT scans or laboratory tests.
Heather Hinton recently took her son, Preston, to a Emerus hospital.
She also took along a novel to read and a game for Preston to play in preparation for a long wait, but both diversions were unnecessary.
Says Hinton: “I can’t believe we got in to see the doctor in six minutes. I don’t even get in to see Preston’s pediatrician that fast.”
OFFER ADVANCED SERVICES
Dr. Toby Hamilton, CEO of Emerus, says the physicians who created the hospital system spent years working in traditional emergency rooms, and that experience has driven the streamlined solutions and processes implemented in the Emerus system.
Emerus recently changed its name from 24 HR Emergency Room to set itself apart from other facilities that don’t specialize in advanced emergency care services.
The facilities are similar to conventional, hospital-based ERs in terms of staffing and equipment. They offer imaging services such as X-ray, CT scanning and ultrasound, along with in-laboratory and pharmacy services.
Hamilton says processes that may take hours to days in conventional hospitals take minutes at Emerus.
He owes the long wait times in other facilities to overcrowded and understaffed emergency rooms, sometimes filled with patients who don’t need emergency treatment.
“After all, the only thing worse than being sick is waiting in a long line with other sick people, waiting to be seen,” says Hamilton.
The American College of Emergency Physicians estimates patients spend more than four hours in emergency units, with typical wait times of more than one to two hours to be seen and evaluated by a medical professional.
Kevin Stuckey, principal of Houston-based enTrust Immediate Care, says he applauds Emerus for publicizing and extending the “15 minutes or it’s free” offer.
He notes the promotion appears to be more appropriately directed to urgent care patients — those seeking prompt medical attention, but without life-threatening conditions.
Stuckey says his urgent care center at 9778 Katy Freeway routinely treats patients in 15 minutes or less.
“Unless the Emerus staff encounters a situation in which several patients arrive within a very short time span, I would expect them to be able to deliver on their offer,” says Stuckey.
“However, if they do get ‘slammed,’ someone may get a free visit to the ER,” he adds.