IEMS cuts down on 'frequent flyers'

Social worker rides along for ambulance runs

INDIANAPOLIS - A unique program will ensure that citizens get a timely emergency medical response while saving money for taxpayers.

Wishard Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Medical Services division will now send a social worker along with paramedics to help cut down on high-risk individuals who make frequent and unnecessary 911 calls for help.

Until recently, Indianapolis emergency medical responders wouldn’t know until they arrived to a scene if the call was a cry for help or a cry of wolf.

“We ran our top ten list. And our top ten were accounting for over a thousand runs in a year,” said Dr. Dan O’Donnell, Deputy Director of Emergency Medical Services.

Some people used and abused the emergency medical system across the city and relied on 911 calls as their gateway to a doctor visit in the emergency room, access to medications or general care.

“You may see somebody for several weeks at a time, and then you may not see them for a month or two. Then you might start seeing them again,” said paramedic Haley Lawton.

The Indianapolis Emergency Medical Services division has devised a program to help first responders focus on people who frequent the system and the reasons behind their calls for help.

They've paired a social worker with paramedics to conduct a needs assessment to steer repeat callers into proper medical attention.

“On one individual, they were calling 125-130 times a year. We’ve knocked that down to less than 30. So you do the math and that’s tens of thousands of dollars we are saving on that one individual,” O'Donnell said.

One trip in the ambulance can cost as much as $1,500.

Frequent flyers not only cost the taxpayers money, they also divert precious resources away from real emergencies.

Since the program started, it has helped people access much-needed medical care while saving taxpayers money.

Follow Jack Rinehart on Twitter: @jackrinehart6

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