Fort Worth, TX —MedStar EMS will launch the new 9-1-1 Nurse Triage system starting on Monday, May 21.
Under this program, very low-acuity or no acuity 9-1-1 medical calls will be transferred to a specially trained RN in MedStar’s communication center.
The RN will further evaluate the medical needs of the patient to ensure no probability of a medical emergency exists, then work with the patient to find them the best resource to address their medical condition.
“Our 9-1-1 call takers receive calls for many patients with minor medical conditions,” explains MedStar’s Matt Zavadsky. “This program is designed to match the patient to the best medical facility for their condition, which in some cases is not an ambulance ride to the emergency department.”
Dr. Jeff Beeson, MedStar’s Medical Director—who also works as an emergency physician in local hospital emergency departments—sees this type of program as much more patient friendly: “It’s much better for the patient to be able to safely wait in the comfort of their home for a scheduled appointment at a primary care center than to wait hours in an emergency department waiting room. This program may also help alleviate some the emergency department overcrowding we experience in our system.”
The program is being conducted in partnership with Baylor Health System, John Peter Smith Health Network and Texas Health Resources. MedStar is employing the RN, providing the infrastructure and training. The hospital systems are funding the initial RN position in MedStar’s communications center.
Tammy Moore, MedStar’s Communications Manager explains that it takes a special person to be the first RN hired for this program: “We found the perfect person to help us kick-off this program. Our triage nurse is a former paramedic and dispatcher for MedStar who went on to nursing school and has worked for the past few years as a nurse in intensive care units in our local hospital system—she is an ideal fit for this expanded role.”
Another benefit of the program is more effective use of ambulance resources. “Using this program will help make more ambulances available for higher acuity calls, since they will not be tied up on the very low acuity calls,” says Doug Hooten, MedStar’s Executive Director. “This will allow MedStar to have faster responses to the higher acuity calls with the same number of resources in the system.”
The Nurse Triage program is overseen by a steering committee comprised of stakeholders from Baylor, JPS, THR, the Fort Worth Fire Department, Saginaw Fire Department, MedStar and the Emergency Physician’s Advisory Board, the medical oversight authority for the MedStar system.
For the first week of the program, an ambulance will still be sent to the low acuity call while the nurse discusses options with the caller. This is being done to make the transition as safe as possible and to be sure all the kinks are worked out of the process.
Zavadsky explains that these types of systems are better for the patient and the healthcare system in general: “Much like we have demonstrated with our very successful Community Health Program, MedStar can play a key role in patient navigation through the healthcare system. Our trained personnel are immediately available help get the right patient to the right resource at the right time to help the patient get the most clinically appropriate care.”
“If at any time during the call-taking process the Triage Nurse feels that an ambulance should still respond, or of the caller is insistent that they want an ambulance to respond, we will send an ambulance to the scene,” says MedStar’s Hooten. “Our hope is that as people find this process is a much more patient-centered approach to healthcare, the program will expand to cover more hours to help more patients.”
According to MedStar dispatch records for the past year, approximately 9,000 of MedStar’s 106,000 EMS requests (8%) would have qualified for the Nurse Triage process under this protocol.