911 Program Aims To Reduce ER Visits

USA Today reports on a 911 pilot program that aims to reduce unnecessary trips to the emergency rooms.

"Hoping to ease crowded emergency rooms and trim ambulance runs, Louisville Metro Emergency Medical Services (EMS) has launched a program that aims to screen low-priority calls and divert patients from hospitals into more appropriate health care." The program, "among the first of its kind in the nation," sends the lowest priority calls, "such as those for an earache or a stomachache," to a nurse who speaks to the patient "to figure out appropriate treatment, which may not include a trip to an emergency room in an ambulance." Though other cities have tried similar approaches, "only Louisville and Richmond, Va., which piloted the program, are fully using it in EMS systems, [Jeff Clawson, medical director for the National Academies of Emergency Dispatch] says. He added "that if the system is used carefully, it can be a powerful way to 'preserve precious resources' while still getting patients the care they need. 'The time is here for this'" (Halladay, 6/1).

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