OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – The Kissimmee Fire Department is experiencing a higher call load than ever before, but a new program will give 911 callers direct access to doctors.

The Kissimmee Fire Department will launch the new Tele911 program — which is geared toward helping emergency workers keep up with the demand — on Tuesday.

What You Need To Know

  •  The Kissimmee Fire Department will start using Tele911 on Tuesday

  •  The program will all callers to directly access doctors for non-emergency medical issues

  • Those medical professionals will then help emergency personnel determine what kind of care the patient might need

Chief Jim Walls said Kissimmee Fire Department has trained their firefighters and paramedics to use Tele911.

Speaking to a group of firefighters at Station 11 and Walls asks: “So we went through the Tele911 training, everybody thought it was pretty good?” 

Tele911 is a system that allows a doctor to treat callers with non-emergency medical issues in a virtual setting. 

Walls, who has been with the department for almost 35 years, said it has been pretty neat to see the evolution of 911 response firsthand.

“When I got hired here, we didn't have 911 in the city of Kissimmee,” he said. 

Calls are coming in non-stop, he said, and in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic there’s lots of stress and strain on the crews. Just last year they had about 14,500 calls, and if EMTs didn't have to transport every single person, emergency workers would have more time to take calls, Walls said. 

“And (using Tele911) they’ll make the determination whether the patient needs to go to the emergency room or not," Walls said. "They (the doctors) might say, 'No, he really should go to the emergency room,' or he might say, 'Nope this does not warrant an emergency room visit. So they will assume complete liability and responsibility for the patient care.” 

At Station 11, there's a wall filled with names of firefighters and paramedics who have passed away. Looking at that wall, Walls said he has worked with almost every single one of the first responders named there. But while Fire and EMS have grown tremendously, it’s just not enough, he said. 

This is why he hopes Tele911 can help reduce the transport volume by at least 10%.

“It never stops — you never stop learning, you never stop training, and the innovation keeps coming,” Walls added. “It's been amazing to be a part of a little bit of it and I look forward to the next five years.” 

Kissimmee Fire will abide by a medical screening checklist to see if the patient is suitable for telemedicine or not. KFD is the third fire department in Florida to use the Tele911 service and the fourth in the country.