Memphis to streamline emergency services with IBM grant

With help from one of the largest technology and consulting companies, Memphis is finding a solution to abate nonemergency calls to the Memphis Fire Department’s emergency medical services. Memphis is one of 16 cities across the globe to receive an IBM Smarter Cities grant which is valued at nearly $500,000 in ongoing consulting with IBM professionals.

Streamlining EMS processes will result in a decrease in expenditures, response times and emergency waiting room stays, according to Abby Miller, Project Manager with the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team and architect of the grant. EMS’ annual revenue is $20 million, but expenditures total $40 million with most of that shortfall attributed to providing emergency services.

“The project is about making sure that when people use the 911 system, they're matched with the right service that they need for the illness that they have,” Miller said. “It's improving their quality of care, so patients don't have to sit in waiting rooms of hospitals when they don't need to be there if a clinic or another healthcare facility could meet their needs quickly and more effectively.”
Another component of the project is dealing with “frequent flyers,” or citizens that call on a disproportionate amount of emergency services. These users might be seniors or have mental health issues and require a specific kind of care that would be better addressed through community intervention.

“What they're (IBM) going to really help us do is look at our database and figure out who falls into this potential frequent flyer category to help us understand health outcomes by neighborhood or by ZIP code and sort of look through our myriad of data that we have available to help us craft interventions that might be used later on,” Miller said.

The IBM Smarter Cities Challenge team is still in its pre-work phase, but within the year the six IBM professionals will visit Memphis to work hands-on with the I-Team in analyzing EMS data. After this three week engagement period, the team will produce a set of recommendations and will remain in contact with the city officials throughout engagement.
Tennessee is the only state to receive two IBM Smart Cities grants. In 2013, Knoxville was gifted IBM’s services to uncover ways to connect weather-proofing and energy education services to residents who receive emergency utility bill assistance. The city recently secured $7.12 million to insulate 615 local homes.
Memphis has a history with IBM. In 2013, the city was awarded a Project Management service grant with IBM. Consultants came to the Memphis to workshop several city project areas, including transitioning the 311 “one-call center” to serve all 14 divisions of city government, implementing a strategic plan for city-owned golf course management, and examining better discipline training for city supervisors. 

Read more articles by Madeline Faber.

Madeline Faber is an editor and award-winning reporter. Her experience as a development reporter complements High Ground's mission to write about what's next for Memphis.
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