FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Starting next week, calling 911 in Tarrant County may not necessarily mean that an ambulance is on the way.  MedStar is rolling out a new triage system to screen non-emergency calls and get patients to the right provider.

“Not everyone needs to go to an emergency room,” says Tammy Moore, MedStar’s Communications Manager.  “There are some patients that will go to the ER and have to wait for hours and there are some that have waited in the ER for days.  With this program in place, with us being able to triage these patients over the phone and ask these protocol questions, it’s going to alleviate that for them, too.  It’s a win-win situation for both us and the patient.”

In the past year, MedStar dispatchers fielded some 112,000 calls — many of them critical, life threatening situations.  But, a careful analysis of the data found that some 18,000 of those calls would have qualified for this new protocol, with patients calling 911 for help with everything from a case of hiccups to a cockroach in an ear.  Now, a registered nurse working alongside dispatchers will screen those non-critical calls and help get patients to the right provider, whether that be an urgent care clinic, family doctor or dentist.

So far, the community seems supportive.  “Somebody on the other end of the phone that’s able to answer their questions that they don’t know the answers to will be vital and save time and money,” says Kellie Prado, while enjoying lunch today.

MedStar officials say the new triage system should also improve response times.  Right now, they say, 90 percent of life threatening calls will have a paramedic on site in less than 9 minutes.  “It’s going to be more likely that we have an available unit to be able to run on the heart attack, rather than having that unit that was sitting in that same vicinity, they’re responding to someone who has a stubbed toe,” says Moore.

Susan Pelton is the Registered Nurse and former paramedic who will begin fielding those calls next week.  She says from stubbed toes to toothaches, she’s seen it all and she’s excited about the resources it will bring to patients.  “It’s important to them because they don’t know what else to do.  It’ll be my job to calm their fears and let them know that it may not be an emergency, but we’re gonna get them help and get them taken care of.”