Fire Upgrades EMS System to Provide More Treatment & Transport Options

Published on April 16, 2021

Starting Friday, April 16, 2021, the Arlington County Fire Department initiated a new model of providing Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to the community. In 2020, the department was selected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as one of 205 EMS departments nationwide to participate in the Emergency Triage, Treat and Transport (ET3) program. The program provides significant benefits to the Medicare beneficiaries in Arlington County, including lower overall healthcare costs, additional treatment options, and improved efficiency in delivering EMS care for all community members. As part of the ET3 program, new and innovative EMS procedures will be instituted during 2021. These include emergency treatment in place with a telemedicine health care provider and transportation to alternative destinations other than a hospital emergency department when appropriate.

As of April, the department has officially partnered with Virginia Hospital Center's Urgent Care location at 764 23rd St. South as one of the approved alternative destinations with additional locations forthcoming.
How It Works

The alternative destination option will be implemented first. When an ambulance is called, EMTs and paramedics will have the option to transport patients to non-hospital destinations such as urgent care facilities and specialty medical offices, depending on the symptoms and severity of the medical condition. For example, if a patient's medical complaint falls within the scope of an urgent care facility, the patient will have the option of being transported there instead, potentially saving hundreds or thousands of dollars in medical costs. Comparison studies show that treatment at urgent care centers can be up to 50 percent less than the cost of the same care at conventional hospitals for appropriate medical conditions.

The next phase of ET3, termed Treatment in Place, is planned to start in late 2021. In this phase, depending on the nature of the emergency, paramedics also will be able to treat patients in their own homes — without the need to transport to a healthcare facility — in concert with a qualified health practitioner (MD, PA-C, NP) through telemedicine consultation. The Arlington County Fire Department is dedicated to innovation and efficiency in its operations and is recognized as a leader in providing fire and emergency medical services. Participating in the Emergency Triage, Treat and Transport program helps ACFD deliver world-class services to the residents and visitors of Arlington County.

Learn more about ET3.