Urgent care figures prominently in one Florida county’s efforts to curb excessive emergency room spending while also educating patients on how to choose the best setting for what ails them. A review of their 2018–2019 fiscal year told Volusia County, Florida officials that residents had an expensive habit: calling 911 when they didn’t have a way to get to a doctor’s office or going to the emergency room for relatively minor illness and injuries. The 911 calls, in particular, stood out as an often waste of resources; 44% of dispatched ambulance calls did not result in transport to the hospital because the patient who called didn’t meet the standard for emergent care, according to an article in The Daytona Beach News-Journal. So, the county started the E-911 Redirect Nurse Triage Program, wherein nurses from two local healthcare facilities were trained to work alongside 911 operators and empowered to select the most appropriate setting based on the patient’s symptoms. If patients don’t really need to see a healthcare professional at all, the nurses give homecare advice. If a call reflects a true medical emergency, an ambulance is dispatched to take the person to the ED. In the cases that fall in between those two extremes, the nurses can send an ambulance to get the person to an urgent care center. During its first week, the program diverted 20% of 911 calls away from the ED. If the program is successful enough, the county will consider hiring more nurses and expanding the hours its available. Currently, it’s limited to the seven nurses mentioned above and operates from 7 am to 7 pm Monday through Friday.
E-911 ‘Triage’ Initiative Would Channel Many ED-Bound Patients to Urgent Care