ALBANY COUNTY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – People in Albany County who dial 9-1-1 for minor medical concerns could now be connected to a doctor via telehealth, getting the care they need from home. Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple announced the county’s partnership with UCM Digital Health Tuesday, allowing EMT’s to set patients up with doctors virtually.

“A lot of people don’t wanna go out because of the pandemic, again, now we can bring a doctor to them,” Apple said.

The partnership with the Troy-based healthcare entity allows Sheriff’s Office EMS units to setup face-to-face conversations with an ER physician on a tablet. EMT’s will first assess the situation when responding to a medical call before determining whether or not to connect with a doctor.

“We can give IV fluids, we can give breathing treatments, we can give nausea medicine, and that patient will be treated at home,” said Dr. Michael Bibighaus, Chief Medical Officer for UCM Digital Health.

At-home care that can help keep those who don’t need emergency treatment from potentially waiting hours at the hopsital.

“Unfortunately, they’re transporting people with toothaches, which has real pain and they need intervention, they just don’t need to have it done at the ER,” Bibighaus explained.

The Albany County Sheriff’s Office isn’t the first local agency UCM has partnered with. Working with over two dozen other entities, they’ve handled over 1,000 calls, with their doctors keeping the patient out of the hospital around 80% of the time.

“Not to say that those 20% is a failure, oftentimes those are patients we’re convincing need to go to the hospital,” said Bibighaus.

On top of keeping people out of potentially packed emergency rooms, the partnership also aims to help free up the county’s EMS resources, allowing them to respond to emergency calls quicker.

“We’re also keeping our rigs, our paramedics and our EMT’s in service to respond to the next emergency, where they may really be needed. Instead of a call where they don’t necessarily need that life saving skill,” the sheriff said.

Bibighaus says their average call time with a patient is around 12 minutes, sharply contrasting to the hours a unit could spend waiting at the hospital to get care to a patient with a non-life-threatening ailment.

This new partnership comes at no cost to Albany County taxpayers.

Apple says UCM accepts most health insurance plans available locally. Bibighaus says while they do charge patients who don’t have insurance, they’re not aggressive about tracking down payments. Each patient also gets a follow-up within a few days of receiving care from UCM.