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Can we Fix 911? Bringing EMS into the 21st Century

1 Aug 2019 8:23 AM | AIMHI Admin (Administrator)

Governing source article | Comments courtesy of Matt Zavadsky

Mattie did a great job on this article in this month’s Governing Magazine - a very important publication for our profession!

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Can we Fix 911? Bringing EMS into the 21st Century

BY MATTIE QUINN | AUGUST 2019

An ambulance’s wailing sirens, a fire truck’s flashing lights: These are a constant feature of urban life, as ubiquitous as a Starbucks on every corner or a traffic jam at 5 p.m. 

But nearly a third of the times an ambulance or a fire truck speeds by to answer a 911 call, there is no actual emergency.

The number of 911 callers who don’t need to go to a hospital emergency department sits at around 30 percent, according to Kevin McGinnis of the National Association of State EMS Officials. 

The “false alarms” are more than an annoyance; they are a drain on the public purse, a frustration for responders and often an unhelpful source of assistance for the caller. It’s a problem that’s been around almost as long as 911 systems have. What is changing is the approach some cities and counties are taking to the way emergency medical services are delivered. Namely, a number of EMS officials are working to align their services with other community health goals. For instance, instead of automatically dropping a 911 caller at a hospital’s emergency department, an ambulance could, when appropriate, be rerouted to bring a person in distress to a sobering center, an urgent care clinic or a warming center. “Frequent flyers” -- those who call 911 more than once a month -- could be enrolled in a program that would help them address their chronic health conditions. Health issues that aren’t truly an emergency could be triaged by a nurse watching via an iPad in a call center when the call comes in. 

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