McKINNEY, Texas - The McKinney Fire Department is embracing technology and has added telemedicine to its medical units when paramedics answer 911 calls.
Paramedics have to make a decision whether to let you stay or transport you to the hospital. Now McKinney paramedics are only the second fire system in the state to bring on telemedicine.
"The paramedic will typically have a full set of vitals and a complaint and then we would speak to the patient just like we would anywhere else," said Dr. Elizabeth Fagan.
Emergency doctors like Fagan will first visually examine patients through i-pads carried by McKinney paramedics, partnering with Integrative Emergency Services.
"If it’s possible for the patient to be treated in place, we can call in prescriptions for them, help them get referred out to a physician that they might need to see or simply reassure them that what they have is indeed a non-emergency," Fagan said.
"What it will allow us to do is allow those units to clear up, get back in service faster so that they're at the ready for the next emergency call," said Capt. Jared Turner, McKinney Fire Department.
The technology was initially used during the COVID-19 outbreak, when people were concerned about not feeling good, but also concerned about being around others.
"It was a need that we tried to fulfill to make sure that patients were still getting healthcare if they could not go to a brick and mortar building," Fagan said.
McKinney and San Antonio fire departments are the only two in Texas currently using the technology.
"If a person calls 911, we're coming lights and siren, we're there prepared to take them to the hospital," Turner said.
Fagan said this will give patients another option for care.
"This is going to allow a subset of those patients who, in fact, don't have an emergency condition, to have an alternative to just simply going to the emergency department or not getting any care at all. It provides them with an additional option, it provides them with an additional option to be able to get care at that moment," Fagan said.