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Hawaii Firefighters reach out to frequent 9-1-1 callers to help minimize cost, provide solutions

Date: 2017-07-18
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From a story by Jeff Hansel posted at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald posted on July 17, 2017

The Hawaii County Fire Department’s medical personnel are on a quest to see if they can help frequent ambulance riders stay healthier and decrease their need to call 9-1-1. After a spate of frequent callers began taxing resources, the department identified the need to offer an alternate service or referral method that can take care of these people without costing them large medical expenses and keeping Fire Department EMS personnel out on calls that aren’t necessarily emergencies.

The department’s new Community Paramedicine Pilot Program is intended to find solutions and make the lives of its residents a little bit easier. After identifying the county’s 247 “high utilizer” medical callers to 9-1-1 (those who make six or more calls per year), Fire Department Medical Specialists Jesse Ebersole and Vern Hara began making visits to meet the frequent callers and work with them to find alternative solutions that would still provide the services they need.

The top caller to 9-1-1 dialed dispatchers 82 times in the past 12 months — summoning emergency personnel an average of once every 4 1/2 days. The estimated cost to respond and transport that single person to the ER was $426,000, including $1,200 per ambulance transport and an average of $4,000 per ER visit.

Some at-home visits are based upon referrals “from agencies who have identified somebody who is at risk,” Ebersole told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald. “And we’re targeting the ‘vulnerable population’ of people who don’t have a safety net, who have fallen through the cracks, who don’t have anybody to advocate for them.” Frequent ER users may be connected services, such as the county Office of Aging.

By mid-July of this year, Ebersole said, the Community Paramedicine Pilot Program had visited 55 of the county’s 247 high frequency medical callers. Since the pilot program began last October, their calls to 9-1-1 have decreased by 45 percent - a cost savings of $26,460 per month for the health care system, including the county, Hilo Medical Center, and emergency responders like - the fire EMS specialists and ambulance crews.

Read the full story and watch associated video at hawaiitribune-herald.com

- People, Places & Things/9-1-1magazine.com (via Hawaii Tribune-Herald, 7/17/17)

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