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ETHAN Program Improves Efficiency and Crew Availability

ETHAN Program Improves Efficiency and Crew Availability

Fire departments and EMS agencies are often stretched thin for resources. The idea of launching a new program may seem counter to solving that problem, but the results of such an effort so far have been positive for Houston Fire Department (HFD). In December 2014, Dr. Michael Gonzalez and the department launched an innovative, technology-based program called ETHAN (Emergency Telehealth and Navigation Program) to more efficiently identify patients with low acuity complaints so they receive the appropriate level of care at the appropriate setting.

Traditional 911 EMS response involves transport to a hospital emergency department. The ETHAN program uses advanced telehealth technologies and community-based resources for those patients. Medics respond to calls and assess patients as they normally would, so there is no deficit in available care. For those who are determined to not require emergency transport after assessment, responders can initiate ETHAN's video conferencing component to connect the patient to a board certified emergency physician.

With additional assessment from the physician, alternative transport and care can be determined for the patient's disposition. Options include taxi cab transport to a partner primary care clinic, taxi cab to the ED, ambulance transport to the ED or referral to the patient's PCP/home care. With these additional options available, 3,300 patients have been transported to the ED by a taxi - reducing costs and freeing up crews for the next call. 500 patients were scheduled an appointment at a primary care community clinic.

In July of 2016, Dr. Gonzalez and the HFD received the ImageTrend Hooley™ Award for the New Frontier category. At the time of the nomination, a cost benefit study was already underway, with savings estimated to be between $5-8 million for the first 14 months of operation of the program.

As innovative leaders like Dr. Gonzalez create new paths for better patient care, ImageTrend supports these efforts with connected health records. From 911 EMS call to ED to post-discharge community paramedicine or primary care clinic, patient-centric records give providers the 360 degree view they need of the patient's health.

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