Healthcare systems continue to cope with supply chain struggles, with Emergency Medical Services (EMS) being among the hardest hit. Some ambulance services have gone without medications, and some have had to improvise equipment.
MIH-CP can help reduce the burden caused by supply chain shortages, but at the end of the day, it cannot solve the problem. Supply chain troubles are a separate and unique hardship, one that goes beyond the demand and uses of healthcare. However, that doesn’t mean that healthcare can’t cope with supply chain troubles. MIH-CP and the care model it puts forth is one possible coping mechanism.
Let’s discuss how the supply chain has debilitated many healthcare systems, particularly emergency response. Then, we’ll discuss what, if anything, MIH-CP can do to help EMS and healthcare cope with shortages of medications, equipment, and personnel.
Let’s get started.
How Shortages Impact Community Health Programs and Emergency Medical Services
Let’s look at some of the ways the shattered supply chain has negatively impacted EMS and public health as a whole. Organizations have been forced to take extreme measures to cope with shortages in some areas.
Shortages impacting healthcare and EMS:
Below, we go into more detail.
Medication Shortages Impacting Healthcare
Some areas have had to ration certain medications. This includes lifesaving medications, such as epinephrine and dextrose. Both these meds are primary to emergency response. While areas have been able to find these meds in other forms, this has slowed the ability to give these meds during emergencies.
Many medications come in preloaded injection tubes. These vials make it easy to administer them in an emergency, as the meds are typically premade to the correct concentrations. However, supply chain shortages have forced many hospitals and ambulances to pre-mix these meds, taking away valuable time from the emergency response.
Vehicle and Ambulance Repair Shortages
The second thing, aside from equipment, is vehicles. Many EMS departments and hospital-based services have struggled to replace old and outdated ambulances and are forced to continue pouring money into a failing vehicle. Ambulance services put an unimaginable number of miles on their ambulance each year, so it’s critical that they have a fleet of solid vehicles.
However, many areas have now had to continue using old vehicles. This makes ambulances more likely to become stranded due to a breakdown and unable to complete an emergency call. Those who can stay ahead of repairs find that they are spending more and more time in the repair shot.
Professional Worker Shortages Impacting Healthcare
Finally, personnel. While this isn’t technically a supply chain issue, it certainly falls under the shortage category and might be the most significant deficit healthcare has faced these past years.
These extreme worker shortages debilitate health services, leading to substantial overtime expenses, cutting trainees loose before they are ready, and overloading current staff – leading to more burnout, further compounding the problem. It is, indeed, a vicious cycle.
Each area has been forced to cope with these shortages. While many have done their best, there is no doubt that, at times, these shortages lead to the degradation of patient care.
As it’s said, necessity is the mother of invention, and perhaps MIH-CP can offer at least some relief from these supply shortages. Let’s talk about how.
How MIH-CP Can Reduce EMS and Healthcare Supply Shortages
This section looks at three ways MIH-CP can help alleviate supply chain troubles. Note that we are purposeful in using the words alleviate and reduce. And we are avoiding words like solve and fix.
We are under no illusions that MIH-CP will “solve” the supply chain trouble, as they are, at their core, not closely related. This section aims to establish that the philosophy and values of mobile integrated health are a community’s best response when coping with supply burdens.
We’ll look at three ways MIH-CP can help alleviate the supply burden:
· Reduce medication usage
· Attract personnel
· Reduce reliance on expensive ambulances
· Build a synergistic healthcare community
Let’s get into the details of how this works.
MIH-CP Can Reduce High Medication Use
We will examine the problems we set forth and discuss how MIH-CP can help. Let’s begin with medications. The best way to illustrate how MIH-CP can help is with an example.
Let’s talk about dextrose shortages and how community paramedicine might help. Dextrose is given to those experiencing hypoglycemia, particularly those in a hypoglycemia-induced coma.
Here’s how MIH-CP could reduce a system’s reliance on a med like Dextrose.
First, we need to understand the diabetic patient. Though nuanced, like any patient, these patients are often recurring, and their hypoglycemic events can often be traced to mismanagement.
In these cases, a mobile-integrated healthcare team can help. They begin by helping with the mismanagement. This means they can regularly visit the patient and ensure that the patient is taking all required medications and eating a strong diet, thus reducing the number of times the patient must be revived with medications.
Diabetic patients can be part of the sub-group of super-utilizers. By reaching out to these patients, mobile health teams are reducing the demand for dextrose and the number of times an ambulance is dispatched to these patients, indirectly decreasing the wear and tear on the vehicles.
Let’s talk about worker shortages.
MIH-CP Can Attract Personnel and Reduce Worker Shortage Impact
We’ve discussed the crippling paramedic shortage before, but it’s worth discussing again and pointing out the two main ways MIH-CP programs can help reduce the burden of this “supply” shortage.
First, MIH-CP can help attract new recruits. Frankly, the unpredictability and stress of responding to 911 calls can lead to a fast burnout rate, with many paramedics and EMTs not even making it past five years on the job.
However, community paramedicine offers another pathway. It provides a way to help responders looking for a more predictable work-life balance. Furthermore, as MIH-CP grows and finds new opportunities for revenue generation and funding, becoming a community paramedic can offer increased wages for paramedics, giving them a step up in their careers.
MIH-CP Can Reduce Reliance on Vehicles
Not only can MIH-CP programs attract new personnel, but they can also reduce the burden of maintaining many ambulances. Let’s understand why.
Many EMS systems have slowly adopted new ways of responding to patients. In the US, there is a reluctance to move away from full ambulances in favor of more first responder, SUV-based response.
The fact is, these first response vehicles, when equipped with paramedics, can provide all the lifesaving treatment as a full ambulance, buying the patient time until a transporting unit can show up on the scene. As community paramedicine evolves, and EMS with it, systems take an approach that looks more like first-response medics plus mobile integrated health teams vs. just ambulances.
Indeed, this model will reduce the burden of constantly staffing and maintaining full ambulances.
Mobile Integrated Healthcare Creates Synergy within Healthcare
Finally, community paramedicine is about healthcare connections, which will increase the overall effectiveness of the health system. Synergy is the idea that the blending of two things is more significant than their sums. In a fundamental sense, this means that if one doctor can cure one patient, and another doctor can cure one patient, then if they work together, they can cure three patients. In a sense, synergy accounts for the benefit of good teamwork.
Connectedness in healthcare also facilitates the collaborative trade – if you don’t have something, perhaps somebody else does. And maybe you have something that they need.
We saw this play out positively during the early days of the pandemic. Even simple supplies, such as paper towels or hand sanitizer, were shared openly between adjacent health providers. If one department had extra supplies, they would often donate them to the greater good of the system.
This type of sharing between health services creates a buffer against supply chain shortages.
And, at its core, sharing supplies is not just an act of charity, but it’s an understanding that, just like any team, when one member falls, it can bring everyone down. For example, if the ambulance doesn’t have adequate equipment to disinfect their vehicles, this could translate into the hospital dealing with more illnesses.
During the beginning phases of the pandemic, this sharing came naturally and organically; however, there are certainly ways these practices could continue. And it all comes back to maintaining connections and building a unified health system.
A New Philosophy to Mitigate Damage from Supply Shortages
What’s the final answer to supply chain shortages? Become less reliant on the system when possible. Of course, areas will always need medications, vehicles, and people to drive those vehicles and administer those medications, but that doesn’t mean that areas can’t work to improve their ability to cope when there is a downturn in supplies.
MIH-CP puts forth a philosophy that is about maintenance and prevention. And this philosophy doesn’t just apply to healthcare. For example, you can either spend a lot of money and supplies repairing your car when it breaks, or you can spend less money and supplies by effectively maintaining the vehicle.
In the end, this is why MIH-CP is “the answer” to the supply chain issues – because MIH-CP is about spending relatively few supplies maintaining what’s healthy instead of spending a lot of supplies fixing what’s broken.
Last take: How Mobile Integrated Health Programs Can Help with Supply Shortages
MIH-CP can reduce supply chain burdens by lowering medication use, attracting employees to their programs, mitigating the reliance on full ambulances, and creating a more connected health system.