DC to roll out new protocols for non-emergency 911 callers

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WASHINGTON, DC -- On April 19th, a new pilot program for handling non-emergency 911 calls will take affect, in an effort to alleviate emergency room crowding and improve patient care callers.

The “Right Care, Right Now” program will filter out non-emergency calls by redirecting them to a nurse triage line to assess the caller's symptoms.

“We’re hoping to decrease the over-taxation of our EMS system and reduce some of the overcrowding in our emergency department.”, said Dr. Robert P. Holman, Medical Director for DC Fire & EMS.

He said that DC has one of the highest per capita 911 calls for EMS in the country, but this new program hopes to change that.

Dr. Holman explained, “About 25-percent of our total callers turn out to have lower acuity calls which could be better handled in an outpatient setting rather than an emergency department.”

He said they adopted the idea from some other jurisdictions' attempts to deal with non-emergency calls.

DC Fire & EMS Chief Gregory Dean said that non-emergency callers will have appointments made for them at a clinic for treatment and Medicaid recipients would also be eligible for transportation of non-life-threatening situations.
Other callers would have to find their own ride to the doctors' office.

 “When the call comes in, you’ll describe what’s going on. The dispatcher will decide, does it go to dispatch for fire or does it go to a registered nurse here in the District that’s been approved by the department of health… she will sit down and talk with you and she will make that determination.”, explained Chief Dean.

While the District has high hopes that the pilot program will work to improve care across the board, nursing student, Morgan Rhyne is skeptical of the process..

She said, “With heart attacks, you could be feeling an earache or a headache and someone could be complaining about a really bad headache and they’re just going to take them to the clinic when they really need to go to an emergency room.”

The nurse triage line will be tested for six months starting April 19
th and is expected to route 64 out of an estimated 500 emergency calls received daily, to a nurse.
Officials say the main point is to encourage patients to access the health care system the most appropriate way to fit their needs.

“We think it’s a great introduction to the community, a great introduction to the clinics and everybody else to see exactly how this works.”, said Chief Dean.


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