Over the past decade, paramedics have reported an alarming increase in the number of non-emergency 911 calls. People are abusing these services because they know that EMS is obligated to show up at their home. Often times EMS workers have to deal with patients who call multiple times a day just because they are lonely or have a cold. These patients have been dubbed “frequent flyers.”
Not only do these non-emergency calls take up the time of paramedics and ER doctors, they also waste billions of dollars a year. An ambulance ride to the hospital can cost anywhere from $400-5,000. Some EMS programs have responded by initiating Paramedicine programs that are part community outreach and part preventative medicine. [i]
The goal is not to punish those who make frequent calls, but to take steps to intervene before they resort to calling 911. A lot of times this means targeting seniors who are often isolated and may find it difficult leave the house to see their doctor and get regular checkups and health screenings. While paramedics will check vital signs and assess the overall health of a patient, they will also check to make sure that other essential needs such as physical activity and good nutrition are being met.[ii]
While local paramedicine programs do require funding, they are far less expensive than responding to non-emergency calls. Best of all, these programs provide tremendous benefits to seniors, especially to those who are looking to age in place and don’t have the full-time support of a family member or caregiver. Ultimately, paramedicine is just another way that communities are meeting the needs of people who want to stay in their homes, yet also have to overcome mobility challenges.