An ambulance ride, when you don’t really need one, can be expensive for you. It also ties up crews that could be responding to life threatening emergencies.
News 4 Trouble Shooters
As part of our Show Me Your Bill project, Trouble Shooter Jaie Avila demonstrates how the San Antonio Fire Department is trying to reduce unnecessary ambulance runs.
At the fire department call center, one sometimes two dispatchers are using new video call technology to see the patient and determine if they really need an ambulance.
If your 911 call does not appear life threatening, you’re quickly transferred to one of the special, clinical dispatchers, like paramedic Art Salazar. He sends the caller a link they can click on with their smart phone.
Salazar sent the link to Jaie Avila so we could demonstrate how it allows him to see the patient right through their phone’s camera.
Through the video call the dispatcher can see how the person’s skin looks and whether they’re in distress. But the app itself is also sending back vital information.
“It’s able to check your respiration, your O2 saturation and your pulse, so that gives us a small view of what we’re looking at with you,” Salazar told us.
If things get more serious or the caller wants an ambulance the dispatcher can still send one. Or they can provide a virtual taxi voucher if the caller wants to go to the ER later.
SAFD says the application, which is called Good Sam, has eliminated an average of 13 ambulance calls per day.
“It keeps them free for cardiac arrest, chest pain, shootings, for the actual life-threatening calls,” said Lt. Rex Pantoja with SAFD.
During the February freeze, dispatchers used the video call app about 40 times a day. They helped callers who didn’t know how to turn off water to their homes or whose oxygen machines were without power.
“We would send them the link and our dispatchers were actually teaching them how to connect to their portable oxygen tanks,” Pantoja said.
SAFD says it’s the first department in the nation to use the Good Sam app to manage resources this way. The cost to the city is $149.000 a year.
The department hopes soon dispatchers will be able to use this technology to walk callers through CPR or take live pictures of a structure fire while crews are still on the way.