Wisconsin 911 Frequent-Caller Program Shows Success

West Allis – Paramedics are used to helping people who are alone and scared and don’t know what to do if they need help.

However, they do know that if they call 911, a kind, professional who wants to help them will appear at their doors in a matter of minutes. They are the bulk of West Allis residents who frequently call 911.

The paramedics have come to know them well. They have taken them often to hospital emergency rooms and emergency responder personnel knew they would soon be back, responding to yet more 911 calls.

Often, the reasons people call 911 or end up in emergency rooms don’t have to do with health issues, said West Allis Fire Department Capt. David Bandomir. He knows, because he heads the department’s new 911 frequent-caller program.

From January to March, the 911 frequent-caller program was run on a pilot basis to see if paramedics could get at the root causes of why some people repeatedly called 911. To find the reasons, paramedics went to the homes of callers, checked on them and talked with them.

Find the problem

Paramedics have discovered that some frequent 911 callers don’t have transportation, Bandomir said.

For example, one lady couldn’t get on a bus because she was disabled. To get a special bus with a low step, she needed to provide her birth certificate. That was too big a barrier and she gave up. Paramedics helped her with that, and now she is fine, Bandomir said.

Some don’t take their medicine or take it improperly, their condition worsens and another 911 call is made.

Under the program, paramedics talk to residents about their medications, making sure patients know why they take the medicines. Paramedics give them a list of available medical options if they have problems. The list is in the order they should be called, although paramedics help them differentiate between ordinary problems and those that really do need 911 responses, Bandomir said.

Success shown

This approach appears to have been successful. After 124 home visits with 29 people who frequently called for 911 assistance, there was an 86 percent decrease in non-vital 911 calls from that group. In addition, there was a 71 percent decrease in visits to the Aurora West Allis Medical Center’s emergency department for those residents.

And the people themselves were happier. In a touching video the department made about the program, an elderly woman who had volunteered to be in the pilot program, said, “It’s entirely different now. I’m a happier person. I feel a lot safer, I know more people.”

The pilot program was so successful that the medical center and paramedics have teamed up for the paramedics to do the same kind of home visits to high-risk patients after they are discharged from the hospital. The medical center pays for the service and part of the fees supports the fire department’s ongoing 911 frequent caller program. Fire department officials hope the fees will sustain the 911 program that they see as a win for everyone. The people get care from family doctors or clinics that are familiar with them instead of by emergency room physicians who are not. The fire department reduces a call volume that is creeping toward the point of being unmanageable.

Call volume is on pace to hit a record 9, 200 calls this year.

“We have to do something about this call volume that goes up and up and up,” Fire Chief Steve Bane said.

“I’m committed to this program,” Bane said. “We find in these patients the underlying root cause and if we solve that problem for them they do much better. It’s pretty neat stuff.”

© 2015 Journal Media Group

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