How to Find the Resources for Community Paramedicine Programs(When You’re Already Short-staffed)

Would you like to start a community paramedic program but feel restrained by a lack of staff and funding? Let’s face it: expanding health programs can feel impossible, especially during difficult times.

Mobile Integrated Healthcare-Community Paramedicine programs can seem far-fetched for many communities. After all, most areas are struggling to find EMTs and paramedics as it is. While it’s true that EMS (and healthcare in general) is facing staffing and resource challenges, there are ways you can climb these mountains.

Sometimes, the best defense is good offense. While it can be easy to become paralyzed by the present difficulties, moving forward, even in the face of challenges, can often pay dividends.

How to Build a Community Paramedic Program (MIH-CP) When Short-Handed

Let’s discuss some ideas to give you the confidence to start a community paramedic program—even in difficult times and with short staffing.

Here are seven ways to find the resources for a community paramedic program:

  1. Look into grants
  2. Ensure you’re reaching out to partners (even if you don’t have the personnel)
  3. Consider the recruiting draw of community paramedicine 
  4. Implement programs that don’t require more resources
  5. Consider the cost and the benefit (in some cases, a new program will really help)
  6. Get the community involved (show how the area could change)
  7. Don’t be afraid to start small

Below, we’ll discuss each of these options in more depth. As you’ll see, there are ways for the dedicated community leader to blaze new trails—even when it seems difficult.

Look Into Community Paramedicine Grants to Increase Resources

First, take some time to research grants for mobile integrated healthcare. There are more out there than you might think, and this can be a great way to start. A grant won’t sustain your program in the long run, but it can be the rocket fuel you need to get your program in the air.

One of the main benefits of a grant is that it allows you to pay paramedics more, attracting more talent to your program. Whether operating as a fire department, private EMS company, or clinic, a grant can help you attract talent and build resources.

Think of the grant money as a “trial period.” During this time, the goal is to build the program to a point where it consistently meets goals and becomes sustainable. Once you reach this point, it’s time to start reaching out to partners.

Let’s talk about that.

Reach Out to Community Partners and Combine Resources

While a grant might give your program a turbo-charged boost, community partnerships will fuel it over the long run. Most areas take this route to build a sustainable program.

How do these partnerships help with resources? Let’s look at an example.

Perhaps you’re an average-sized EMS agency. Like everyone, you’re short-staffed but would like to implement a mobile health program to help with the uptick in mental health calls.

In this case, you could contact the local mental health facilities and discuss collaboration efforts. Perhaps the facility has trained staff who would be available to respond to mental health calls in the field, maybe as part of a co-responder program.

If so, your EMS agency might provide the dispatching and response, and the mental health program could provide the personnel. Each side fills half the puzzle. Alone, neither side would be able to do anything, but together, you’ve found a way to make something happen. That’s the power of partnership.

Recruiting EMS Staff: Many Paramedics are Interested in Community Paramedicine

Sure, you might not have enough paramedics to go around. However, many areas use “community paramedicine” as a magnet for new talent. Paramedics are excited about community paramedicine; many will actively look for EMS jobs where community paramedicine work is possible.

So, instead of thinking about a community paramedic program as a strain on your already overworked staff, consider ways you could use the program to attract new talent, thus reducing the strain on everyone.

Health professionals like to be on the cutting edge, and many areas have been able to positively recruit and maintain staff through intuitive programs like community paramedicine.

Start with Community Paramedic Programs That Don’t Require More Resources

While a community paramedic program may seem like a daunting extension to your current organization, it doesn’t have to be. In the future, you can worry about investing in expensive equipment and advanced practices, but right now, you only need to adopt some new protocols.

One of the best ideas might be an alternative destination program. This program will allow your current ambulances to transport patients somewhere other than the ER. These programs don’t require new staff or equipment, and they can make a big difference.

There are other programs – tiered response and co-responder teams – that are more about changing protocols than expanding your staff or equipment.

Consider the Cost but Also Consider the Benefits of Community Paramedic Programs

It’s easy to dismiss a new idea with a simple statement like, “We’re too busy. We don’t have the time or the money.” And this kind of thinking is fair enough – times are tough for many public health organizations.

However, before making this dismissal, we should consider the value gained and lost. Let’s look at an example.

Perhaps you have several patients who frequently access the 911 system, which may represent a significant portion of your calls. Often, super-utilizers drain organizations of three things: time, money, and personnel.

Time was lost trying to direct them to more appropriate care, money was lost due to resources expended and low reimbursement, and personnel were lost due to frustration. These issues represent the cost of letting the problem fester. Now, weigh these costs against the cost of implementing a community paramedic program (that could solve these problems).

After reviewing the numbers, you might find that the benefits of a community paramedic program outweigh the costs – indeed, this has been the experience of successful organizations nationwide.

Try to Build Community Support (Town Halls, City Events)

Community backing is essential. If you can drum up support at town hall meetings, you’ll be several steps closer to establishing a solid community paramedicine program.

When the residents of a city see that a community paramedic program could improve the response to overdoses, streamline mental healthcare, and free up ambulances for true emergencies, they will be more likely to push local leaders to direct resources your way.

Don’t Be Afraid to Start Small MIH Programs

If you don’t have the resources for a large community paramedic program, don’t worry—many areas don’t. However, doing what you can with what you have can go a long way.

Perhaps you only have the resources to operate a community paramedic unit twice a month. While it may seem that results are far away, this small step can make the difference in proving your program’s effectiveness with more significant partners – partners who may have more resources to share.

Now, let’s go over a bonus tip.

Bonus Tip: Have the Communication Tools in Place for an Effective MIH-CP Program

When you’re making partnerships for a mobile integrated health program, it’s crucial that different providers can communicate without inhibition. Good communication is like the miracle-grow that can make your program flourish. And bad communication can ruin things fast.

Just think about watching a video on the Internet. If you click on a video only to find the audio quality is horrible, you immediately click away. It doesn’t matter if the information in the video was stellar—you couldn’t hear it, so the relationship between you and the video ended.

The same thing can happen in community paramedicine. You might have a great idea, but if your partners can’t efficiently work with you, they will soon become frustrated and, metaphorically speaking, click the exit button.

Software tools like Julota ensure that your communication with partners is clear and compelling. Starting a community paramedicine program is hard enough; you don’t need poor communication to add to the mix.

Now, let’s go over a few final thoughts.

Conclusion: You Can Find the Resources for a Mobile Integrated Healthcare Program (Even when resources are stretched)

A community paramedic program requires time and energy. However, the dedicated agency reaps many rewards. Even during tough times, when it might seem like there aren’t enough resources, a community paramedic program is still feasible.

You have to consider that a community paramedicine program might reduce your overall expended resources – especially when the program targets an area of waste, such as unnecessary 911 calls. Also, realize that programs like alternative destination transport require very few extra resources – this is simply a helpful new protocol that follows the MIH-CP model.

If you’d like to give your Mobile-Integrated Health Community Paramedicine program the best shot, consider contacting Julota.