How to Bring Community Paramedicine out of the Shadows

We’ve seen mobile-integrated healthcare community paramedicine impact on reducing hospital readmissions and EMS overload. How do we bring these benefits into the mainstream? How do we showcase the value of community paramedicine? 

Community paramedicine is a relatively new idea. More people need to know the problems facing community paramedicine. Once everyone understands the issues, mobile integrated health will be better poised to expand.

Let’s explore several ways to make community paramedicine mainstream. 

Opportunities to Expand Mobile Integrated Healthcare Community Paramedic Programs 

This section covers several places to focus your attention when building a community paramedic program. Each of these fields will have something to offer. 

Three places: 

  • Customers. Essentially, this is anyone who directly benefits from community paramedic care. This includes patients, but it also includes hospitals and law enforcement. Later, we’ll explain why. 
  • Partners. These programs can be direct partners to a community paramedic program, including home health aides and community mental health services. 
  • Governments. It isn’t easy to grow a program without the laws and statutes to back it up. More pressure needs to be placed on local, state, and federal governments to make changes in community paramedicine. Including budgeting for program sustainability.

With that, let’s look at these three areas in more detail. Below, we will explain how to approach these organizations.

Potential Customers for Mobile Integrated Healthcare Community Paramedicine 

Community paramedicine is a valuable service. But, like any institution, the widespread adoption of community paramedicine will hinge on communicating the value: patients, hospitals, and police departments. 

Here are several community paramedicine customers: 

  • Patients. Of course, the patients will receive some of the greatest benefits. This includes ongoing, quality care that doesn’t require them to visit a busy clinic. 
  • Hospitals. Although community paramedic programs are aimed at patients, the hospital benefit from reduced readmission rates, less stressed ERs, and an increased reach of primary care. 
  • Police departments. Police departments and local governments have a vested interest in reducing drug abuse and mental health problems. 
  • EMS systems. Ambulance services everywhere can reap enormous benefits from instituting a community paramedic program, including increased recruitment potential, reduced super-utilizers, and more ambulances available. 
  • The public. Everyone stands to benefit from improved, innovated healthcare solutions. Taking care of more people and preventing illness leaves room in the ERs and ICUs for people with critical ailments. It’s not an overstatement to say that the whole world stands to gain from new healthcare practices.

So we know the customers are there. But how do we reach them? 

Here are several ideas to reach out to those who stand to benefit from a community paramedic program: 

  • Tell patients about the program. For paramedics, it may be appropriate to ask patients how they would feel about a community paramedic program. Then, if a program is instituted, take some time to reach out to specific patients – perhaps super-utilizers. 
  • Bring up the possibility during city halls. Often, local EMS directors attend local meetings. Contact local members of city councils, and see if you can add community paramedic topics to the agenda. 
  • Contact neighboring ambulance services. Perhaps your company can’t staff a local community paramedic program at this time. But, that doesn’t mean the EMS company in the county next door couldn’t provide personnel. 

When you’re trying to bring something forward, it’s all about building relationships. If you can find at least one other person who wants to get on board, you can create momentum and bring community paramedics into the light. 

Along with reaching out to customers, EMS organizations should also contact potential partners. 

Community Paramedic Partners 

Telling people about community paramedics is essential. However, good partners will play a vital role in making community paramedicine mainstream.

Why is it so important? Unfortunately, there are times when local organizations view community paramedics as competition instead of partners. Before instituting a paramedic program, communicating with similar programs in the area can remove any pushback.

Nurse associations would be a great example of this. Before launching a program, have conversations with the local nurses association and show them how you are filling a gap and not looking to replace jobs.

Often, local organizations resist community paramedics because they don’t understand them. However, talking to potential objectors to integrated mobile health is an excellent opportunity to evaluate others’ concerns. Don’t become discouraged with opposition. Instead, use it as a chance to tighten your armor. 

With that, here are some potential partners: 

  • Home health nurses. Home health nurses and community paramedics are natural partners. If you live in an area that doesn’t have many paramedics, your agency might consider partnering with RNs and EMTs, combing the resources of the ambulance with the skills of the RN.
  • Community mental health. Many community paramedic programs are centered around responding to a mental health crisis. In the past, law enforcement took a strong role in mental health calls. Modern practices have seen more community paramedics taking the lead on mental health calls. 
  • Local drug rehab centers. Local rehabilitation centers could be a great partnership for community paramedic programs. Frequently, community paramedics work with PORT programs or post overdose response teams. The medical skills paramedics have combined with their knowledge of an area make them an asset for overdose care. 

Why are we highlighting several different options? Well, first, because every community is diverse. For example, you might work in a community that requires better outreach to rural residents; however, they may not need to expand their drug rehabilitation program. The needs of a community ebb and flow – thankfully, community paramedicine is ready to respond. 

Second, some cities are excited to try new things. However, other areas are more reluctant to give new ideas a chance. Some people worry about cost and benefit. Knowing your communities needs and knowing the wishes of leadership within that community is essential. Once you know what they want, you can pitch an idea that offers a solution.

The more ideas you have, the more chances you’ll have to begin a community paramedic program.

Now, let’s talk about getting the government on board. 

Getting Government on Board with Community Paramedicine 

Unfortunately, some areas have been slow to adopt community paramedicine in legal terms. Minnesota became the first state to pass the Community Paramedicine Bill. This allowed community paramedics to be paid for their work, which is long overdue in many areas. 

Once community paramedics are a recognized legal service, EMS agencies are more motivated to consider mobile integrated healthcare a viable opportunity. 

Here are several ways to reach out to the government: 

  • Partnership. The more local groups you can partner with, the more motivation a state has to hear your request. Many times, it’s not the early bird who gets the worm – it’s the loudest. There is nothing wrong with building support for as worthy a cause as community paramedicine. 
  • Contact EMS leadership. Organizations like the NREMT and the NAEMT have sway in the country’s most pressing agendas of emergency medical services. Reaching out to these groups is essential for legal change, as these organizations have the connections to make institutional change in community paramedicine. 
  • Get the word out. Unfortunately, much of the general public doesn’t realize the unfavorable laws surrounding EMS. In some areas, reimbursement for ambulance companies hasn’t changed in many years. There’s a false idea that ambulance companies are lucrative businesses. On the contrary, many ambulance services are still run by local governments, and all they want to do is staff their trucks—the more awareness of the difficult state of ambulance services, the more change that will result. 

You can’t fix a problem if you don’t know it’s there. So any chance you have to spread the word around the trials EMS face is a chance for positive change. 

Funding a Mobile Integrated Healthcare Program 

Now that we’ve discussed several ways to grow your ambulance company through partnership, customers, and government outreach, let’s talk about funding options. 

When presented with a new idea, the first question is: how are we going to pay for it? 

Here are several ideas to fund your community paramedic program: 

  • Grants. Applying for a grant is a common way for community paramedic programs to open their doors. 
  • Budget. If you factor in the possible savings of a community paramedic program (less unbillable 911 calls), you may be able to make a case for allocating your resources. 
  • Partnership. Hospitals face reimbursement penalties if they see high hospital readmission rates. This makes them a primary partner. Once hospitals see that community paramedic programs can save them money, they will be more likely to get on board. 
  • Payers. Believe it or not insurance companies are funding programs in select areas and Medicaid has taken notice and is seeing the value of community paramedicine.

If you’re curious, check out this article on funding your community paramedic program. While funding can seem difficult at first, there are options available. 

Strong Communication and Documentation is Imperative 

One reason cited for resistance to community paramedic programs is inadequate documentation. For example, when a home health nurse makes a house call, each run is filed into a broader patient record. Unfortunately, instead of connected data, EMS often writes a bunch of separate run reports. This disjointed documentation creates a lack of cohesion in patient care.

Julota offers EMS programs a new way to document patient care for MIH-CP programs. Julota allows you to see past visits with the patient, providing a comprehensive health picture. In addition, the ability to evaluate past patient visits gives providers a step up when making treatment and transport decisions. 

If you’re interested in stress-free patient documentation that is HIPPA compliant, contact Julota for a free demonstration.