LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – The Los Angeles City Fire Department has launched a telemedicine program to help screen patients with non-life-threatening issues.

In a press release Friday, LAFD said the program has been in development for over two years, but the coronavirus pandemic sped up its rollout. The goal is to help limit the exposure of first responders and medical personnel to COVID-19 patients and others who do not need emergency treatment.

“Navigating out new normal, while keeping the public and our firefighters safe are the reasons why we continue to adjust our operational policies and procedures,” LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas said in a video.

The telemedicine program allows trained healthcare professionals to evaluate patients remotely through smartphone technology, which also helps reduce overcrowding in hospital emergency rooms.

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“It’s been a long journey with the coronavirus pandemic, accelerating [the program’s] implementation,” Terrazas said.

LAFD dispatchers will screen 911 callers to determine if the patient falls into a non-urgent category. If they do and are between the ages of two and 65 with access to a smartphone, the dispatcher may refer them to a telemedicine provider.

During the screening, the provider at the dispatch center can provide monitoring a treatment advice, or even send an ambulance if the need arises.

As the face-to-face screening proceeds, the Telemedicine Provider at the dispatch center can take a number of actions to resolve

While the program will help greatly with battling the coronavirus pandemic, Terrazas said the department plans to continue to utilize it long after.

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