New Substance Abuse Partnership Aims to Reduce Unnecessary 911 Transports

By Eric Wicklund

A new digital health partnership aims to reduce 911 transports to crowded ERs by giving emergency personnel on-demand access to substance abuse resources.

Bicycle Health, a San Francisco-based provider of virtual opioid addiction treatments, in joining forces with Tele911 to develop a platform that helps first responders direct patients with substance abuse issues to the appropriate resources. The service is designed to replace the standard practice of transporting those patients to the hospital for treatment.

“Opioid use disorder impacts millions of Americans each year, yet 80% of them go without treatment,” Ankit Gupta, Bicycle Health’s CEO and founder, said in a press release. “Working closely with Tele911 will allow us to reach individuals struggling through emergency health crises, redirect their care, and welcome them to our evidence-backed virtual care model – ultimately putting them on the path to recovery.”

The service is designed for EMS and ambulance companies and other first responders, many of whom are seeing high volumes of 911 calls that end in unnecessary and expensive hospital transports. Several programs now in use across the country use telehealth and digital health technology to screen those emergencies at the scene (or before emergency personnel arrive) and determine if the hospital is the best care plan, with alternatives that can include taking the patient home or to another care site or scheduling a healthcare visit at a more appropriate time.

Health systems and hospitals are also interested in the platform as a means of reducing crowded Emergency Department waiting rooms and unnecessary treatments and improving care coordination.

The Bicycle Health-Tele911 partnership enables first responders to connect with an emergency physician through the Tele911 platform who can evaluate the patient and establish a care plan that may include telehealth and/or home-based visits, MAT treatment and other services through Bicycle Health.

“Many patients who call 911 can safely be treated in place, avoiding costly and medically unnecessary ambulance transports to crowded ERs,” Marc Eckstein, CEO and co-founder of Tele911, said in the press release. “This innovative partnership with Bicycle Health will allow us to take that in-home treatment to the next level by allowing us to connect these stable, vulnerable patients to immediate care tailored to their specific needs, ultimately transforming the EMS system and improving OUD care.”

Eric Wicklund is the Innovation and Technology Editor for HealthLeaders.