Mount Carmel Health System on Monday hosted representatives from nearly 30 central Ohio fire departments to encourage them to consider community paramedicine.
The relatively new practice links residents with medical resources and in turn helps alleviate the strain on emergency crews and hospitals. Mike Foley reports.
In June 2015, a change in Ohio law allowed certified emergency medical technicians, advanced EMTs, and paramedics to perform services in non-emergency situations. Since that time, central Ohio has taken a lead role in establishing a community paramedicine program, also referred to as Mobile Integrated Healthcare. Mount Carmel Health has a created a community paramedic training curriculum, working initially with the city of Whitehall, Violet Township in Pickerington and Truro Township in Reynoldsburg. Mount Carmel EMS manager Jamie Wilson says the practice helps address frequent users of the emergency system.
“Most of the time when someone calls 911, EMS will go out and transport the patient to the emergency room. However, they may not need emergency room care. So this evaluates those patients without necessarily taking them to the hospital. So if it’s a patient that was not able to get their prescription refilled, sometimes they would call 911 and come in to the emergency room to get a prescription. Well the community paramedic can step in and help them get that prescription filled or get to their primary physician or get to a clinic without having to come into the emergency room. It takes the burden off of their over-transports. We had an example of someone who was calling six to seven times a week to go to the emergency room. But she needed more of a companion and someone to listen to her chronic issues. The community paramedic was able to step into that role and do that. They were able to take her emergency room visits down to one per month. So, that role alleviates their truck being out of service, the multiple trips to the hospital that aren’t needed and obviously the emergency room visits.”
Wilson says funding the program remains the biggest challenge moving forward. There’s no set cost as different communities have different needs, and the types of runs they make vary. Some departments designate one person as the community paramedic, while others build the work into an existing position. Westerville assistant fire chief Joe Krouse says his department signed on for the training because of the benefit to residents.
“The goal with getting in the homes is to prevent the emergency. Once you get the community paramedic in there, you can help the resident control medication or make lifestyle changes. It keeps the 911 service available more for other emergencies going on. Obviously everything costs money, and it’s going to have an additional expense on the fire service or the community that fire service is providing to. It’s not the value of how much it’s going to cost, it’s the value on the benefits the residents will get in the long run.”
For Mount Carmel, the ultimate goal is to provide whatever the community needs. Wilson says another effort have focused infant mortality, with 12 cribs distributed to homes identified as unsafe sleep environments. A year-long pilot project targeting residents with congestive heart failure began earlier this month.