The next time you need to visit the emergency room, you might wait longer than usual.
The average wait time to see a medical professional inside a hospital emergency department in Texas is now 26 minutes, according to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
However, explosive growth in North Texas may keep you from seeing a doctor as fast as possible.
According to W. Stephen Love, president and CEO of the DFW Hospital Council, North Texas is experiencing explosive growth, and federal health care changes will likely lead to more uninsured residents, who – he says – go to the emergency department for primary care.
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Love says right now, Texas leads the nation in uninsured patients.
"Most people who drive themselves to the emergency departments are really people seeking primary care. Primary care will be delivered, but it's not the best place for primary care. It creates wait times," he said.
Free-standing ERs affiliated with hospitals can alleviate some of the load, but he says free-standing ERs not owned by hospitals typically don't treat patients on Medicare or Medicaid.
Love says they have little impact on wait times at the large hospital systems.
Your best bet, he suggests, is to know where to go.
"If you're going to an emergency room that has trauma built in, like a Level One trauma or a Level Two trauma, sometimes very severe emergencies come in and you're going to have to wait," Love said.
Grand Prairie pastor Jordan Tew knows what it's like to wait in the an emergency room waiting room.
He and his wife recently had to rush their young daughter, Savannah, to the emergency room after she became sick a few days after surgery.
"She had just had surgery to remove an extra digit on her hand and she developed a little stomach illness afterwards," Tew said.
He says Children's Health hospital staff had told him if any complication arose, they should return to their hospital.
"We were advised that was the place to go," Tew said.
He said he didn't expect to wait four-and-a-half hours to inside the emergency department waiting room.
"This is my number-one priority. It's my child, but she's down on a list and that is very frustrating," he said.
Hospitals now post current wait times on signs and billboards near their facilities.
Many have also launched apps to improve customer service.
Tew says the care his daughter eventually received was excellent, but knowing what he knows now, he would have taken her to an urgent care clinic.
According to Hospital Compare, Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas has the longest wait time, from the moment a patient enters the hospital to the time the patient is seen by a medical professional. The average wait time is 83 minutes.
John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth has an average wait time of 35 minutes.