A new approach allowing 911 operators in Longmont to parse out the best medical responses to callers will help speed response times for those who need critical care, the city’s fire chief said this week.
Longmont’s adoption of the Nurse Navigation program -— used by 20 cities nationwide — means 911 dispatchers now have options for quickly getting proper and best medical care to those calling for help, Fire Chief Dan Higgins said via email.
“This program has the potential to help with response times for immediate emergencies, because when a caller is referred to the nurse line, the nurses work to find a more appropriate level of care for the caller, and by doing so it leaves our limited number of first responders available to respond to other emergency calls,” Higgins said.” It also helps reduce the stress on our area hospital emergency departments. “
The Nurse Navigation program is provided through American Medical Response and began Sept. 27 in Longmont.
Residents will see no change in the 911 system for life-threatening emergencies. Calls made to 911 for urgent, life-threatening, or potentially life-threatening emergencies will result in the dispatching of Longmont Fire and AMR to assess symptoms and provide transport to a local hospital, according to a news release.
If a condition is determined not to be a medical emergency, callers will be transferred to a Nurse Navigator to determine an appropriate path for treatment and assist in coordinating care. This program gets community members to the right level of care for their needs, Higgins said
There is no cost to the caller to access the Nurse Navigation system.
Longmont Nurse Navigators are licensed Colorado nurses with professional experience in emergency nursing. They are also specially trained in the practice of telephone triage, the news release states.
After triaging the caller, the nurses can connect callers to clinics in Longmont, arrange transportation to and from appointments and notify a clinic when a patient is arriving. Nurse Navigators can also connect callers directly to telehealth physicians who can provide care and prescribe medication if necessary. The service does not require the caller to have medical insurance to access this service, the news release states.
Appointments at certain local medical facilities, including urgent care and possibly home visits are also options based on the needs of the caller, Higgins said.
The Longmont Department of Public Safety has been working in conjunction with GMR (Global Medical Response, parent of American Medical Response) since early 2022 to get the nurse navigation line set up and operational for the City of Longmont, he said
Similar GMR nurse navigation lines are already operational in Boulder and Pueblo as well as 20 other cities nationwide, Higgins said.
The 911 Nurse Navigation program has been navigating ‘low acuity” 911 callers since 2018, Lisa Edmondson, RN, and director of the Nurse Navigation program, said via email.
“There is specific education and training to navigate callers to all appropriate alternate destinations, to include urgent care clinics, mobile urgent care services, mental health referrals and TeleHealth visits with an emergency boarded physician,” Edmondson said.
Dispatcher-triaged 911 callers with non-emergent injuries or illnesses will be sent to a Colorado State Licensed-nurse for assessment, she said.
The nurse will then assess a caller’s symptoms and refer them to the most appropriate medical care. Steps taken by the Nurse Navigator could include a virtual visit with a board-certified emergency physician, home health suggestions to best meet a patient’s needs, or transport, without an ambulance, to a non-emergent local healthcare provider, Edmondson said.
“The patient benefits through the more direct communication and care that can save time and money,“ she said.