Case study:Houston hires tele-nurses to boost 911 dispatch

Far too often, 911 operators are forced to dispatch ambulance crews who later find out that their services weren't really needed. Now, in an effort to cut down on such wasted calls, the Houston City Council has voted to hire tele-nurses to work with dispatchers. A minimum of two nurses will work around the clock, helping dispatchers give first-aid advice and suggestions on how to find a doctor for callers not experiencing true medical emergencies.

Over the next five years, the city will pay the non-profit Harris County Healthcare Alliance $6.8 million to find the nurses, who will be hired through subcontractor CareNet of San Antonio. The two entities will carry liability insurance offering protection of up to $3 million per claim to cover the exposure in assisting the 911 line.

Houston officials expect the program to save money as well as reducing the strain on local emergency departments. Right now, one 2006 study estimated that the city spends $50 million annually responding to non-emergency 911 calls.

To find out more about the program:
- read this Texas Healthflash item

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