Introducing Tele911

Calling 911 doesn't have to mean a trip to the hospital

Article by Laura SanchezQuan

Photography by Daniel Arizpe

Originally published in Cypress Lifestyle

As Assistant Chief - EMS for Cy-Fair Fire Department, Justin Reed is always seeking to improve procedures to better serve the department and the community. Described as an out-of-the-box thinker and dedicated innovator by his peers, Chief Reed believes that; ‘just because we’ve always done things a certain way, doesn’t mean it’s the best way; tradition is a barrier to progress.”

It was this trailblazing mentality that led the team at CFFD to be the first in Harris County to implement the novel use of telemedicine using a platform called Tele911 to navigate patients through the complicated healthcare system. 

Through a phased rollout at the start of 2023, Tele911 gives paramedics in the field the unparalleled ability to offer patients a real-time board-certified physician via teleconference. Right there, on the spot, as a simple yet enhanced level of triage. Without Tele911 when a 911 call is made where paramedics are dispatched, common practice is to transport the patient to the hospital. Oftentimes, that’s just not the most appropriate course of action in the interest of the patient, but with procedure as it was, the paramedics didn’t have alternative options. 

Assistant Chief Reed saw the glaring need to streamline these processes within the healthcare system, and he astutely understood how Tele911 would fill the need. The implementation of Tele911 is a seamless way to get patients the right form of care, while also helping to alleviate clogged-up wait times at hospitals. Unfortunately, hospital emergency room wait times often leave paramedics with no choice but to wait around to formally sign over a patient to the hospital. Not only is this wasting time and resources—pulling the paramedics away from other pertinent incoming calls–but the abundant, seemingly endless waiting can lead to burn-out in paramedics who truly desire to help people. 

Widely used in California, Florida, and throughout Texas, the phased rollout of Tele911 for CFFD allowed for a smooth adoption of the system in a moderated and controlled manner. Tele911 empowers paramedics to offer more choices and therefore more appropriate treatment. In a lot of cases, an ambulance ride to the hospital isn’t the most effective form of care. Instead, via teleconference, a doctor can directly and immediately offer the patient real-time solutions. From writing prescriptions to finding the right treatment or clinic, or even inpatient services for mental health needs. 

CFFD Lieutenant Greyson Johnson, the nation's highest user of Tele911 and EMS Field Training Officer said; “It helps paramedics feel useful and allows them to navigate the healthcare system to effectively get the help the patient actually needs.” Johnson says, “This is when I know I’ve served the patient well.” 

Assistant Chief Reed also shared how Tele911 with CFFD allows for groundbreaking advancements in crisis response. From situations like Winter Storm Uri in 2021, to hurricanes and everything in between where travel is hampered and resources and manpower are stretched thin. The ability to add teleconferences with the dedicated doctors partnered with CFFD through Tele911 is a game-changer.

The exemplary service of Tele911 has proven incredibly effective and helpful for caregivers of the elderly, infirm, and even pregnant and new moms. It’s an extra layer of reassurance when the patient can be treated at home and avoid an unnecessary trip to the emergency room. And it doesn’t stop there; follow-up care, contacts, and plans are also provided.

The sense of personal fulfillment and the rewarding nature of the job when not being stifled by red tape, serves every member of the healthcare system, from patients to paramedics to hospitals and the community as a whole.

Via teleconference, a doctor can directly and immediately offer the patient real-time solutions

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