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Paramedics can safely evaluate psychiatric patients' medical condition in the field

December 24, 2018 / Enrique Rivero

Emergency medical personnel in Alameda County, California, use a screening process for determining whether to "medically clear" patients experiencing psychiatric emergencies before transporting them. They identify patients who are at low risk for medical emergencies and take them directly to a special Psychiatric Emergency Service facility specifically designed for people experiencing psychiatric crises. The protocol used by Alameda County emergency medical staff is an alternative to standard protocols, in which all patients are transported to the nearest emergency department. During a five-year period ended Nov. 1, 2016, Emergency Medical Services staff used the protocol to transport 41 percent of 53,000 psychiatric emergency cases to the stand-alone psychiatric emergency service facility. As a result, 22,000 psychiatric patients were treated at a specialized facility without first undergoing the standard trip to the emergency department.