Team to conduct study on reducing non-emergency calls in Memphis

Team to conduct study on reducing non-emergency calls in Memphis
(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)
(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The goal of a three-week study that began Monday is to cut down on non-emergency calls in Memphis.

The ultimate plan is to find better ways to help people with non-emergencies which, in turn, will reduce the number of those non-emergency calls to the 9-1-1 center. By reducing those number of calls, it would allow the 9-1-1 center operators to deal with life-threatening emergencies. It also helps reduce the number of non-emergency patients taking up hospital beds in the emergency room at the hospital that are needed by people with emergency medical conditions.

"They have no doctor, so they take an ambulance to the hospital, the emergency room, for non-emergencies," Mayor Jim Strickland said.

Strickland said it's a population they don't want to ignore, but they need to find a more productive and efficient way to help without hindering the needs of those with true emergencies.

That's why he is thrilled for Memphis to be one of 16 cities chosen for the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge.

"This team is going to help us figure out how do we get that population better service, better medical care, so they don't have to use 9-1-1 service," Strickland said.

"That includes preventative healthcare, along with enhanced non-emergency and emergency response," Tina Wilson, manager of IBM Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs, said.

Wilson is overseeing the project for IBM and said the district need for these solutions in Memphis is why it was chosen for the program.

The first week will be about listening and learning.

The second week will consist of creating recommendations and bringing them to city leaders and stakeholders.

"The third week we will put together an overall broad road map for the city of Memphis," Wilson said.

Keith Hermiz, one of the IBM Smarter Cities team members, is also a volunteer firefighter and EMS worker in his hometown in Vermont.

"I can empathize with the people that are placing that call," Hermiz.

He said the team has a ton of useful data that will help them here.

"Hopefully we can use that to be a little proactive and predictive in terms of when people might need services and when those needs might be emerging," Hermiz said.

MFD Director Gina Sweat said at a time when ambulances and EMS crews are run ragged daily with calls that are not true emergencies, it is a welcomed need to reduce these non-emergency calls.

"This will hopefully help us find ways to keep those units in service and on the streets when we do have true emergencies," Sweat said.

The IBM Smarter Cities team is expected to present their recommendations and road map to improving non-emergency services on March 11.

Copyright 2016 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.