A community paramedic program is not exempt from ups and downs. But, unfortunately, when a mobile integrated healthcare program stagnates, rejuvenating can be challenging. Furthermore, feeling like you’re stagnating can be frustrating when you see neighboring MIH-CP programs doing well.
A mobile integrated healthcare-community paramedicine program is like a garden. It will grow if planted in fertile soil and receives proper sunlight. However, its potential may gradually diminish unless the program receives the necessary attention, care, and sound management. So how do you revamp a struggling MIH-CP program? The first step is to determine the community paramedic program’s needs and then take steps to correct any deficits.
This article will discuss how MIH-CP programs can climb out of a bad rut and reach long-term sustainability.
5 Ways to Grow a Stagnant Community Paramedic Program
The first step is to get organized if you’re trying to save a faltering community paramedic program. Like caring for a sick patient, you must have a systematic approach, first ruling out the most severe problems and moving on from there. Data collection is crucial for organizing an MIH-CP program.
This section will highlight some of the foundational needs of a community paramedic program, and from there, we’ll branch into more hidden reasons a community paramedic program is stagnating.
How to heal a stagnating MIH-CP program:
- Build a strong foundation
- Check that you aren’t overextended or underextended
- Is there too much program overlap?
- Keep the funding stream flowing
- Ensure you’re staying connected to partners
Below, we’ll expound on each of these points.
The Foundation of a Strong Community Paramedic Program
The first thing you need to do is look at the program’s foundation. If you’ve been trying to revive your community paramedic program, but nothing is working, the program’s foundation is likely the culprit.
What are the components of a good foundation for a community paramedic program? It comes down to good leadership, strong communication, and the right vision. Let’s look at these three things in more depth.
Three foundational pillars of a community paramedic program:
- Good leadership. Assigning roles and duties at the beginning of a program is essential. While it’s easy to get into a “collective responsibility” mindset, it’s still necessary that each person has assigned roles. Indeed, there will be some overlap, but as the saying goes, if it’s everyone’s problem, it’s nobody’s problem.
- Strong communication. This one will come up later on, but everyone must stay on the same page when it comes to the program itself and those who work on it internally. This means listening to the EMTs and paramedics in the field, ensuring the board members are excited and in tune, and that the managers and supervisors understand their expectations. Moreover, communication with community stakeholders is vitally important. Communication is the grease that keeps the engine running.
- The right vision. Like any business, a community paramedic program should have goals. These overall goals do not need to be incredibly stringent, but they should guide the daily tasks of everyone involved. For example, some reasonable goals might be reducing the number of patients who call 911 or enrolling X number of patients into the program. These KPIs need to be tracked, measured, and reported. Whatever metrics and KPIs you choose, ensure that everyone is on board.
We’ll talk more about some of these things below. But first, let’s look at programs that are overextended.
Prevent Overextended or Underextended Community Paramedic Programs
If you stretch an MIH-CP program too thin, it will need help to take off. Starting a community paramedic program is similar to starting a campfire. You start small and slowly build it up, continually fueling the fire. However, there are two common problems regarding campfires (and community paramedic programs).
First, you place too much wood on the fire, smothering it to nothing. Just like this can happen with a campfire, you can overextend your community paramedic program, stifling the few people and resources you have by trying to expand. Typically, it is best to choose one area to focus on and grow from there. For example, a small program may want to select fall risk and keep its focus there instead of tackling several community issues at once.
Second, you can fail to fuel the flame with the appropriate kindling. Some people fear smothering their fire, so they get it started and watch it burn out, failing to add fuel. Again, the same thing can happen to your MIH-CP program. Instead of nurturing the small growth, you allow the program to simmer and eventually burn out without reaching its full potential. After you have an established program, working strike while the iron is hot. Seek more grants, partner with different organizations in the community, and add additional services your program can provide.
The key is to assess your program and ask yourself: Is this program ready for significant expansion? Or should we work on nurturing what we have, hoping to grow in the future?
Let’s talk about the importance of a needs assessment.
Community Paramedic Program Overlap: Needs Assessment
If the community paramedic program overlaps local programs, you could see stagnation. The way you avoid this overlap is by performing a needs assessment. The needs assessment is a common practice for any healthcare program, whether a hospital or a physician’s clinic.
The purpose of the needs assessment is to answer two questions. First – does this community need our services? Second – what kind of services does this community need?
For example, not every community will need a program to address homelessness; however, that same community may desperately need a program to combat chronic disease. A community paramedic program will stagnate when it tries to force its will on the community instead of listening to its actual needs.
A needs assessment also determines whether there’s already a program in the area addressing the concern. Again, this is important for maintaining relationships with local programs. For example, suppose one area feels another department is encroaching on their jobs (without good communication and coordination). In that case, this can create negative feelings, leading to a program that already has people against it.
It’s best to build as many friends as possible in the beginning. As anyone in healthcare knows, word travels fast if someone has a poor reputation, so it’s essential to consider other providers in the area.
Finally, performing a needs assessment is critical before you actively reach. Then, when they see that you’ve done your homework, they will be more likely to listen to what you say and get on board with your program.
Let’s talk about funding.
Keep the Funding Stream Open
Funding can be a challenge for community paramedic programs. Regarding funding, each EMS organization will face its own challenges, making it difficult to give universal solutions.
However, here are some universal principles.
First, you should treat your community paramedic program like a start-up, which means you always seek funding. This could mean researching and applying for grants, reaching out to potential partners, contacting your state government, and advocating for better reimbursement potential for community paramedicine and EMS. If you’re not always looking for funding, effectually, things can die out.
Second, you should have a clear budget and review it regularly. Finally, at all costs, you should avoid silently leaking money. If you struggle to produce steady reimbursement, read our guide on seven ways to fund a community paramedic program.
Now, let’s talk about staying connected.
Stay Connected with Partners
Community paramedicine is truly about community. Establishing good partners can be your saving grace in many scenarios. Why? Good partners can act as a safety net for all the other issues we discussed. If you have good partners, then you’ll be able to get through the rocky times. Good partners can provide funding when it’s needed. They can also offer leadership expertise, equipment, and information.
It would be best if you fostered good relationships with potential partners. Also, once you have good partners, you must stay connected with as few hiccups as possible. So how do you do this?
Regular meetings and open communication are key. Good tools like Julota will also help you stay connected with your partners. Julota is a cloud-based system, so separate companies can easily access it without the need for lengthy software upgrades and tech support.
Community paramedic programs that stay connected with their partners are much more likely to overcome periods of stagnation. Now, let’s take a moment to recap and go over our final take.
Recap: Overcoming a Slump and Growing a Community Paramedic Program
If you feel your MIH-CP program is in a rut, there are things you can do to get the ball rolling again. The first step is to evaluate your foundation, ensuring everyone knows their responsibilities and that your program serves a real need.
Second, you need to ensure the program isn’t overextending your department – but you also want to know when to add resources to the system. Finally, keeping potential funding streams open is essential and to continue fostering good relationships with your partners.
Many programs may also benefit from bringing on a Mobile Integrated Healthcare consultant. Julota has partnered with some of the best in the field, and if you need a referral, don’t hesitate to reach out.
Contact Julota to uncover how the award-winning community paramedicine software tools can help your program overcome a time of stagnation. In addition, a member of Julota’s team would be happy to answer any questions regarding your program’s needs.