'Tele-Nurses' Save Precious Bucks on Ambulances

<p>Instead of sending an ambulance every time someone calls 9-1-1, the Houston City Council voted to contract with a telephone nursing service for non-emergencies.</p>
June 12, 2008, 9am PDT | Tim Halbur
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"For callers who do not have a true emergency, a nurse will offer first-aid advice over the phone, or help them find a clinic or doctor.

The Houston Fire Department responds to about 750 emergency medical calls a day.

'In a large percentage of cases, when we get there, the patient didn't even want to go to the hospital,' said Dr. David Persse, the city's director of Emergency Medical Services. 'Maybe they just wanted some advice, get their blood pressure taken.'

Some people call 911 because they have no health insurance or no transportation to the hospital. Others have insurance but do not know how to get after-hours care or cannot judge how serious a problem may be.

Until now, the default solution has been to send an ambulance. That costs taxpayers and also can cost the patient: An ambulance ride to the ER costs $415, plus $7.50 per mile. That's before the hospital bill.

Houston is among the first cities to try tele-nurses for 911 calls. Richmond, Va., has a similar program."

Thanks to Larry Schooler

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Published on Thursday, June 5, 2008 in The Houston Chronicle
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