BioTel Social Work

The University of Texas (UT) Southwestern/Parkland BioTel EMS System heard repeated concerns from their crews about the lack of options for citizens who have no or minor medical issues that do not require EMS transport to a hospital emergency department, but who nevertheless faced issues that paramedics in the field could not appropriately address. The BioTel Social Work program was created to provide paramedics with a resource to address patients they feel do not require transport to an acute level of care, but recognize the need for additional community support.

Frontline paramedics or firefighters identify an individual who they believe could benefit from social work evaluation. The referral is then made through their department’s established chain-of-command. The policies, process and overall implementation for the program completely customized to the needs and wants of the specific department. Unlike other programs developed to respond to the increasing number of low-acuity 911 calls, the BioTel Social Work program takes referrals directly from fire departments and EMS agencies. If a fire department’s paramedics believe a patient is a candidate for a social work evaluation then one can be scheduled. A paramedic from the referring agency and the BioTel Social Worker complete home visits to help educate patients, connects them to the needed resources, and assist with navigating any barriers with the ultimate end goal being an overall higher level of functioning. This is done as a team approach to provide a well-rounded patient view and foster a deeper connection with the patient’s community. The goal is to identify and build on patient’s strength. Each agency determines who they feel is the most appropriate representative to complete home visits. It could be the initial referring paramedic, a station captain or a member of EMS leadership. BioTel follows the lead of the EMS agency on how the process should be implemented because EMS and Fire Department leadership have the best understanding of their communities.

The BioTel Social Work program has been successful in communities of different sizes and demographics. Departments who have utilized the Social Work program have seen a reduction in 9-1-1 use and long term, sustainable change in their citizens.


Katie Afflerbach meets with Desoto
Chief Bryan Southard and Duncanville
Chief Greg Chase to discuss social
work patient care plans.
Photo Courtesy Journal of Emergency
Medical Services (JEMS)


JEMS - Impact of Implementing an Out-of-Hospital Social Work Program on a High-Volume Emergency Medical Services System

EMS 1 - EMS Social Work:  A New Approach to Serving Low Acuity Patients

Fire Rescue 1 - Social Work Amid Social Distancing: How To Support Patients and First Responders


About Katie Afflerbach, LCSW

Katherine (Katie) Afflerbach is a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) in the state of Texas. She holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in social work. She has extensive experience working with both the adult and pediatric population in the emergency room settings. Afflerbach is the first BioTel social worker and has been with the program since its formation in 2015. 

Contact Katie here: