PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY, MD — The Prince George’s County Fire Department is rolling out a new program aimed to help people who frequently call 911 for trips to the hospital, when that might not be the best use of emergency resources.
"It’s not that they don’t need to be seen by a doctor, it’s that maybe they don’t need to go in the back of an ambulance with lights and sirens,” said Prince George’s County Fire & EMS Department Acting Lieutenant Brian Goldfeder, who is the coordinator of the program called Mobile Integrated Healthcare. He added sometimes a trip to the hospital is not the best place for what patients might need. “If they need behavioral health, if they need just a primary care visit, or they just need urgent care."
Goldfeder said 250 departments across the country already use similar programs and this would be only the second one in Maryland.
“Queen Anne’s County, across the Bay Bridge, has been doing it for approximately two years with excellent results."
Goldfeder said the fire department is teaming up with the county’s health department, area hospitals, insurance groups, and other healthcare agencies. He added Mobile Integrated Healthcare teams will visit people they’ve identified as high-frequency callers.
"Get to these patients. Talk to them about their medical history, talk about their medications, do kind of a full 360 of their house, make sure we find and identify and glaring hazards,” said Goldfeder. "When we do go do these home visits, we have the resources available to refer them direct them, and help them navigate the healthcare system without having to dial 911 the next time."
Goldfeder said they have identified 250 people in the county who have called 911 ten times or more in the past fiscal year, with some calling 911 almost over 100 times. He added 1,400 people in the county have called the 911 five or more times during the same time period.
He added while the focus will be on this group initially, first responders and hospitals will keep an eye out on calls for people who might also benefit from the program.