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ETHAN Program Works to Improve Emergency Transportation

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As an emergency physician in the United States Air Force, treating the most critically injured patients, Dr. Michael Gonzalez learned the importance of advance triage. After he finished his eleven years of service in 2011, he moved to Houston, Texas and discovered the Houston Fire Department (HFD) needed someone to help them launch, ETHAN, a mobile integrated advance triage program. Dr. Gonzalez accepted the job as director of the program.

The purpose of ETHAN (Emergency Telehealth and Navigation) is to address two problems: unnecessary ambulance transports and ED overcrowding throughout the Houston area.  ETHAN provides every fire truck and ambulance with a mobile communication tool to help determine whether a patient’s need is more primary care than emergent. The ETHAN program connects personnel in the field, who are with the patient, to an emergency physician using secure, HIPAA-compliant video conferencing software. The physician makes the determination whether the patient needs to be transported to an ED or referred to a primary care provider. Dr. Gonzalez worked with the HFD and successfully launched ETHAN among EMS teams and hospitals throughout Houston.

After several years of volunteering and working part-time for the fire department, he was contacted by a TeamHealth recruiter. Due to his interest in learning more about the private side of medicine, and the positive reputation TeamHealth had among his peers, in 2015, Dr. Gonzalez accepted the position of medical director for one of the hospitals in the Memorial Hermann Health System.

Dr. Gonzalez said, “TeamHealth not only fully supports me in my role as a medical director, but they are also supportive of the role I continue to play with the Houston Fire Department and the ETHAN program, which has significantly reduced the number of unnecessary ED transports throughout Houston. TeamHealth provides me access to processes and programs that help me and my team provide our patients with quality medical care. I also appreciate the unlimited access to other TeamHealth physicians across the country who find value in collaboration and the sharing of best practices.”