Repeated unnecessary 911 calls are a common drain on the manpower and finances of emergency medical services, but a pilot program that identified Baltimore City's top 911 callers and coupled them with a case worker has succeeded in drastically cutting the number of such calls while helping callers get proper care.
The program, called Operation Care, was conceived and implemented by the non-profit agency Baltimore HealthCare Access and ran as a three-month pilot in 2008. Now, a newly published report of its results appearing in The American Journal of Emergency Medicine can help illuminate strategies for other emergency medical services (EMS) departments around the country that may be plagued by the same problem, says the report's lead author.
"The original idea was to help these frequent callers get better access to medical and other care and, in doing so, Baltimore City ended up saving money and resources, a welcome side effect," says lead author Michael Rinke, M.D., a pediatrician and a quality and safety expert at Johns Hopkins Children's Center.
As fire departments around the country continue to get their budgets slashed, finding ways to trim costs while maintaining the same level of service will be increasingly important, the researchers say.
In three months, the program generated savings of more than $14,300, more than $6,300 of which was for the city fire department. The real savings are probably greater, as this number did not factor in any money saved from unnecessary trips to the ER and freeing up ambulances for other callers.
The Baltimore City Fire Department, which responds to nearly 150,000 emergency calls each year, has continued to fund the program, providing a nurse and a case manager for repeat 911 callers.
In 2007, two Baltimore City residents were responsible for more than 60 emergency calls, another resident made 110 calls to 911, and yet another one made 147 such calls, the inves
|Contact: Ekaterina Pesheva|
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions