Medic seeking alternative methods to address increase in calls

Some cities across the country are looking at an unorthodox approach to growth by considering alternative transportation for non-life-threatening calls, like Uber.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- As Mecklenburg County grows, so does the Mecklenburg EMC Agency known as Medic.

During a five-year period from 2010 to 2015, Medic's call volume increased by 30 percent, growing from 81,796 transports to more than 106,168 in 2015. 

But here's the problem: the amount of calls that are "non-life threatening" is high and that can have a direct impact on response time.

During that same five-year span, Mecklenburg County's population increased by 19 percent, and the call volume? That increased by a whopping 30 percent. 

Some cities across the country are looking at an unorthodox approach to growth by considering alternative transportation for non-life-threatening calls, like Uber. Cities looking at that option include Phoenix and Washington D.C.

“Is it a solution that we should use? I would say not yet,” said Medic Executive Director Joe Penner.

But Penner went on to say, he’s not counting out Uber all together just yet.

“So if someone needs help but they don't need an ambulance, and they don't need to go to the emergency department, but they can go and the nurse has a spot for them in the clinic or to physician’s office, how's two o'clock? And they say they don't have transportation, well that's maybe where they come in, so I could see that happening in our system,” he said.

Uber sent NBC Charlotte a statement and included information about its thoughts on the idea.

“Uber works with jurisdictions across the country to see how the company might be able to assist with community-specific challenges. From senior mobility to DUI reduction to first-mile / last-mile public transportation challenges, Uber has successfully partnered with local governments or advocacy groups to help address their needs.”

Meanwhile, some Uber drivers we spoke with say they think the idea is a good one.

“Never thought that I'd do something like that,” said Uber driver Warren Wellman.

So, even though there is no plan currently to use Uber in Mecklenburg County, the EMC agency is brainstorming ideas and maybe one day the road there may be "an app for that".

Here are the stats, as provided by Medic over the last five years:

  • Between 2010 – 2015, Mecklenburg County’s population increased by 19%
  • Between 2010 – 2015, Medic’s call volume increased by 30%
  • From 81,796 transports in 2010 to 106,168 transports in 2015
  • Demand growth for high acuity patients during this timeframe was relatively flat: (<1%)
  • Demand growth for LOW acuity patients during this timeframe (non-life threatening issues) was 42%
  • One subgroup within the LOW acuity patient bucket is those experiencing psychiatric problems; demand by this subcategory grew by 90% over this 5 year period
  • Another subgroup, those experiencing issues related to overdoses, intoxication or poisoning, experienced demand growth of 113% over this 5 year period
  • Medic also analyzed its call data with an eye for people who use the 911 system more often than would be deemed normal; we refer to this group as high frequency users
  • In 2015, Medic identified a group of 308 individuals who logged 10,129 transports over an 11 month period; that is an average of 33 transports per person
  • 90% of these transports were deemed to be low acuity situations

Copyright 2016 WCNC


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