AUSTIN, Texas - Travis County Emergency Services District No. 2 announced a new partnership with Tela9-1-1.
It's a telehealth and virtual physician platform that allows patients to get a consultation without being taken to a hospital.
With the implementation of Tele911, paramedics arrive on the scene, evaluate the patient and determine if they are medically eligible to participate in a live telehealth visit with a Tele911 emergency physician. The Tele911 physician assesses the patient and establishes an appropriate disposition and treatment plan specific to the patient’s needs.
Another important aspect of the partnership includes not only a next-day follow-up from the physician, but also follow-up by a licensed Tele911 social worker to provide them with linkage to primary care and local resources.
Fire Chief Nick Perkins joined FOX 7 Austin's Rebecca Thomas to discuss the new program.
REBECCA THOMAS: Chief. How will this change a standard EMS visit? How does the service work?
CHIEF NICK PERKINS: Yeah. So what this would allow is our EMTs and paramedics who find themselves on a call with a patient that would meet the criteria for the service is they would bring a physician from Tela911 into the person's living room via a tablet, and then a patient assessment with a physician would be conducted in their living room. And the real intent is to get the patient, the actual care that they need and reduce an ambulance trip and an ER visit.
REBECCA THOMAS: So how can tell a911 physicians properly evaluate a patient without being in the room physically with them? What type of cases would warrant this type of treatment?
CHIEF NICK PERKINS: So one of the reasons we're able to do this is because we actually have licensed providers in the living room. So we actually have a paramedic in the living room who is a health care provider. So he's able he or she is able to do a lot of the physical assessment diagnostic things that a physician is used to doing and receiving. And a great example, the first day we turned this on, we had a patient who had there's actually three patients in a household, and they just needed a prescription, a simple prescription to solve the problem that they were dealing with. And so they were planning to go to the emergency room. And because of the Tele9-1-1 services, the physician was able to identify what they needed very quickly called in the script to a pharmacy nearby, and the call was brought to conclusion.
REBECCA THOMAS: So people at home might be wondering, are there insurance requirements for this service? What is the cost?
CHIEF NICK PERKINS: Right. So these services are covered under insurance and Medicare. And so you're looking, you know, comparable to like an office visit or a clinic visit around $150. So that is considerably less expensive than an ambulance ride or emergency department visit. And then the added benefit is if you don't have insurance, you're not going to receive a bill.
REBECCA THOMAS: Let's talk about the agreement. How did it get done? What was the driver for this partnership?
CHIEF NICK PERKINS: Yeah, our medical director, Dr. Mike Zimmerman, has a long-standing relationship with Dr. Mark Eckstein, who the chief medical director for Tele9-1-1 Services. This is a relatively new service, you know, going across the country. And because of that relationship, they were able to identify an incredible opportunity in Travis County, the number two, to begin deploying the services.
REBECCA THOMAS: And how does this partnership help out paramedics?
CHIEF NICK PERKINS: Yeah. So right now in Travis County, there's an incredible demand on the resources. So ordinarily you have paramedics already working hard, working overtime. But under today's circumstances, with worker shortages, the increase amount of people that have moved to the area, it has all of our first responders and health care workers, you know, really working almost triple time. And so anything we can do to potentially bring that call volume down, bring some relief to them, will go a long way.
REBECCA THOMAS: All right. We are out of time. Fire Chief Nick Perkins with ESD district number two. Thank you so much for sharing your time and perspective with us tonight.