Best Practices: Steps to Managing a Community Paramedic Program

EMS managers often feel slightly off-balanced when managing a mobile integrated healthcare program. EMS directors and supervisors are focused and dedicated to their current jobs – managing the day-to-day of a 911 or interfacility transport ambulance. So how do they transfer their management skills to a community paramedic and mobile integrated healthcare (MIH-CP) program?

Managing a community paramedic program shifts the focus from strictly internal matters and forces the EMS director to form strong connections with the community. Along with the administrative duties, a community paramedic program also means managing a new set of skills.

In this article, we’ll talk about several universal steps to managing a community paramedic program. However, community paramedicine differs from traditional ambulance work, requiring a nuanced approach.

6 Steps for Managing a Community Paramedic Program

Most of these tips will be geared toward creating a stable foundation for a community paramedic program – a foundation that can grow and morph as needed.

Principles of solid community paramedicine management: 

  • Understand the responsibility
  • Ensure you have the time and workforce 
  • Find a blueprint and a role model 
  • Investigate the community paramedic scope of practice 
  • Focus on community outreach 
  • Keep communication clear – internally and externally

Let’s look at each of these steps in more depth. 

Understanding the Need for Community Paramedic Programs

Community paramedicine is still a relatively new venture. Yes, those in the healthcare field know mobile integrated healthcare-community paramedicine. Still, if you ask a random person on the street about community paramedicine, they will likely give you a quizzical look. 

What’s the point? Community paramedicine is still in its formative stages, making it relatively vulnerable. Community paramedicine is still working to establish strong roots like an oak tree. If these programs are improperly handled, it risks damaging growth in the future.  

Community paramedicine is creating a new road in healthcare and could positively change how we perform healthcare in the future. However, if community paramedic programs don’t start strong or damage their reputation early, it will make it much more difficult for them to grow into something meaningful. 

New managers of community paramedic programs should step into these programs, realizing the importance of their work. To learn more, you can read this article on the role of MIH-CP in the future of healthcare. 

Ensure You Have the Time and Manpower 

Counting the costs before you begin a community paramedic program is vital. As we said, for better or worse, a lot is riding on the success of community paramedicine.

If these programs continue to do well, they can potentially steer the ship of healthcare in a positive direction. However, if they go poorly, they could stifle the growing movement and create more trouble for an already difficult time in EMS. 

A community paramedic program will always mean more time; however, consider the cost and the benefit. For example, having a community paramedic program can result in fewer calls from super-utilizers. Also, a community paramedic team can offer more opportunities for current and potential employees, raising retention and increasing the number of applicants. 

Not all community paramedic programs have to be epic in scale. Sometimes they may only start with one paramedic making house calls. Think about the type of program you want to start, and then ensure you have the resources to execute it. Overextended programs will result in confusion and burnout. 

Let’s talk more specifics about the program itself. 

Find a Blueprint and a Role Model for Your Community Paramedic Program

How do you start an MIH-CP program? Unfortunately, this question leaves managers feeling a little confused. Community paramedicine has many paths, and each community has unique needs, making it difficult to pinpoint how to get started. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • First, look for a good MIH-CP blueprint. You can read this guide on how to start a community paramedic program – it will go into some of the nitty-gritty details. It also contains links to well-established MIH-CP startup guides and protocols, which are a great place to begin when mapping out the technical details. You don’t want to fly blind. 
  • Second, look for someone who’s done it before. There are numerous successful community paramedic programs out there – from Colorado Springs to Crawfordsville, Indiana. You can find programs that have gone through the same struggles. It would be wise to emulate these programs when you can – take some time to call up or email people connected to these programs and ask them for their tips or trick if they have the time. 

Let’s talk about the scope of practice.

Investigate the Community Paramedic Scope or Practice 

Along with getting an excellent administrative playbook for an MIH-CP program, managers should also get a good look at the scope of practice of community paramedicine. Understanding the expectations of the staff offers several benefits. 

First, it makes you a more effective manager, as you can back up your crew and know what to say no to. For example, some clinics or hospitals will be unaware of the paramedics’ scope of practice. This may lead to physicians requesting procedures or assessments that the paramedic is not trained to perform.

If this continues to happen, it can lead to frustration on both sides – the paramedic is frustrated that they are being asked to do something they were untrained to do. The physician is frustrated because the paramedic can’t perform their assigned tasks. 

The solution is to set up clear expectations in the beginning. For this to happen, the managers need to have a clear understanding. If possible, managers should go through community paramedicine training with their paramedics. One of the essential aspects of the future of community paramedicine is building a uniform approach to education.

Cohesive education will build trust with partners and increase the providers’ confidence. Let’s talk about another aspect of managing an MIH-CP program that is often overlooked: community outreach. 

Focus on Community Outreach 

Community paramedicine feeds off strong connections. Community paramedicine exists as a place for an area to join forces over the health issues that plague them. 

There’s nothing wrong with a community paramedic program seeking to further its mission – such as reducing super utilizers – but in the end, community paramedicine is about combating universal issues. Managers increase their outreach potential by putting the community’s needs in line with the requirements of the MIH-CP program. 

It’s the difference between going to someone and saying, “Can you help us?” vs. asking, “How can we help you?” Sure, many people will be happy to help you with your new program; however, when you explain that the program is about helping them, they will be more receptive.

Also, keep in mind the vast possibilities for a community paramedic program. It’s natural to think about hospitals and clinics as partners, but you should also think about partnering with homeless shelters, rehab clinics, mental health facilities, and perhaps even community centers. Any organization with a vested interest in reaching out to the local population may be interested in a community paramedic program. 

Partners are essential for growth, leadership, and funding. You can learn more about this in our article on fostering good relationships, which is the bedrock of community paramedicine. 

Keep Communication Clear 

In community paramedicine, you may have relationships with the hospital, the police department, the fire department, the rehab center, and more – how do you improve communication with these organizations?

Two ways to maintain good communication with external MIH-CP partners: 

  • Keep expectations clear. When working with an outside organization, such as a mental health clinic, it can be easy to forget that communication with them must be as good as communication with your team. This starts with expectations being laid out at the beginning of a partnership, and expectations for communication should be clearly stated. 
  • Use a communication platform that works. Imagine you couldn’t email someone unless they used the same system. Unfortunately, in healthcare, we do the same thing. Instead of having coalescing documentation platforms, we still print a lot of paper and rely on second-hand accounts when communicating. This is not ideal. Consider a platform like Julota, where you can seamlessly integrate with outside users, and everyone can access a central platform. 

Let’s go over our last thoughts. 

Final Thoughts on Managing a Community Paramedic Program 

Managing a new community paramedic program can be daunting. It’s a new endeavor and draws EMS teams away from what they’re used to. However, it can be done if the manager gives it the attention it needs. 

EMS managers should consider their resources, ensuring they have the workforce and time to run a good program. Second, they should familiarize themselves with neighboring programs and study the community paramedic’s scope of practice.

Finally, they should never give up on establishing good partnerships and ensuring they use suitable tools to maintain those relationships. Contact Julota to uncover how their mobile integrated healthcare software tools can help teams manage their programs more effectively.