Communications & Dispatch, News

City Improves Ambulance Response

DENVER — Denver Health Medical Center has reduced its ambulance response times by finding improvements in call-taking and dispatching, a city official said Wednesday.

“We’re looking at savings of minutes in that front end,” from call to dispatch, Katherine Archuleta, a senior policy adviser to Mayor John Hickenlooper, told City Council members.

“I don’t want to misstate the number of minutes, but we’re very, very close to our goal,” she said. “What we have to be able to do is keep experimenting to make sure that we can maintain them.”

Even seconds matter, said City Councilman Michael Hancock, whose expansive district in far northeast Denver includes Denver International Airport, where ambulance response times have been scrutinized.

A performance audit released by Denver Auditor Dennis Gallagher last month showed the city’s emergency medical response system is duplicative and creates unnecessary delays.

The audit also found that Denver Health’s ambulance response times are below industry standards and have increased annually, which the auditor called “distressing.”

Archuleta is scheduled to give the council a detailed update on Denver Health’s progress later this month. A group studying how to improve ambulance response times includes dispatchers and other frontline employees, she said.

“With their recommendations, there were some things that we could improve on that were sort of instantaneous,” she said. “They were sort of these rapid- fire improvements that we could actually adopt immediately, and we saw some savings there.”

Archuleta said the group is focused on making improvements that don’t cost a lot.

That means concentrating on efforts around call-taking and dispatching instead of adding more ambulances, which is more expensive.

Operating and staffing an ambulance around the clock costs $620,000 a year, said Stephanie Thomas, Denver Health’s chief operating officer.