Economic difficulties come in waves, hitting some businesses harder than others. For several years, EMS and mobile integrated healthcare-community paramedicine (MIH-CP) have dealt with their fair share of trials. There have been crippling EMS labor shortages, rising fuel costs, and supply deficits. So what should community paramedic programs do to weather these storms?
If a boat is rolling in the waves with no oars, it wouldn’t be reasonable for anyone to predict they know where the boat is headed. Sometimes, during tough times, we have to be ready for anything. However, despite turmoil and unpredictability, there are ways to protect your community paramedic program.
Below, we acknowledge the current struggle of EMS and community paramedicine and discuss some commonsense steps to protect your service during these difficult times.
Three Steps to Protect a EMS and Community Paramedicine Program During Tough Times
When hard times come, it’s easy to become flustered. However, making decisions from a place of fear and worry instead of well-reasoned thought is dangerous. Use this guide as a framework to make good decisions for your MIH-CP paramedic program during hard times.
Many EMS programs might attempt to cut off their MIH-CP program at the first sign of danger. This isn’t necessary. There are ways to maintain a community paramedic program during hard times or keep your head above water long enough to get by.
Here are ways to protect a community paramedic program during hard times:
- Perform a self-assessment. Look for any weak points or issues that are festering in your program.
- Make common sense rollbacks. Don’t impulsively hack salaries or cut employees – start with other logical rollbacks first.
- Keep going. This sounds cliche, but there’s much truth to it. Stay calm and keep pushing and fighting. Panic causes paralysis. When programs don’t allow fear to paralyze them, they have an advantage. And knowing the difference between patience and complacency is essential.
Let’s look at these in more depth.
Times of economic hardship will prove which areas of your program are strong and which areas need improvement.
For example, it’s easy to believe a house is strong under sunny skies, but when the rain comes, will the roof leak? Will the basement flood? During these hard times, a structure’s true integrity is made known. The same is true for community paramedicine.
The key is to shore up your home before the rain. You must know the weak areas of your program before you can make it strong.
When inspecting your EMS community paramedic service, here are three things to look for:
- Take a second look at your budget.
- Ensure you’re optimizing cash flow.
- Look at ways to reasonably expand your service.
Let’s look at these in more detail.
Take a Second Look at the EMS and Community Paramedicine Budget
When hard times come, it’s time to buckle down and crunch the numbers. The most dangerous thing would be to throw up your hands and walk away. A reasonable is essential.
Indeed, during difficult economic times (which EMS, Fire, and community health have faced for a while), it’s time to run the numbers and see if everything is adding up. So when preparing a budget, ask yourself: how much money is coming in? How much money is going out? What are their sources?
You need to get a read on where you’re at in these initial phases. Are there any leaks in the system? At this point, you’re just looking for any apparent oversights – perhaps there’s an area that’s leaking money, and it’s a relatively easy fix, leading to a noticeable increase in cash flow.
This would be equivalent to a family finding out they are spending several hundred dollars on extra video streaming services they barely use. Just by cutting out these expenses, they save money but don’t lose anything.
Ensure You’re Optimizing Program Cashflow
Are there areas where you think you could be saving money? Are there any new ventures that would increase capital? In addition, there may be community opportunities on the table that could result in extra funds.
If you’ve been funded primarily from a grant, now is the time to begin making connections in the community – these are the places that will help you sustain your program in the long term. Remember, even during challenging economic times, people are still trying to do business and still have needs to be met. In addition, healthcare doesn’t go out of demand during these times. So it’s worth it to continue reaching out to potential partners.
Look at Reasonable Expansions
As we hinted at in the last section, looking to expand your community paramedic program during an economic downturn isn’t a bad idea. However, instead of expanding, perhaps the better word is “morph.” For example, if you were providing mainly primary care to older adults, consider the possibility of helping other demographics. Diversifying your program will make it more valuable and increase your ability to attract partners.
For example, the local community center may be interested in partnering with a program targeted at helping teens with mental health struggles, the local senior center may be excited about a program targeting chronic diseases, and some churches and community missions may be interested in a program to help the homeless.
Consider turning your program into a multi-tool, providing value to many demographics.
Make Common Sense Rollbacks
After you’ve run the numbers can cut down on any “hidden expenses,” it’s time to look at your “needed” monthly expenses and think about making logical changes.
First, is there anything you’ve been overbuying on an equipment level? For example, buying a ton of XL gloves isn’t necessary if your team is only using medium-sized medical gloves. These little things seem silly, but that’s also why they go unnoticed. And a few minor cuts can prevent you from making significant cuts.
Cutting staff wages should be a last resort, particularly during the current state of EMS employment. Many areas need help finding good staff. Even during hard times, do your best to make your company an attractive place for employees.
Change the Days of MIH-CP Operations
Instead of running the program five days a week, you have to drop it down to two days per week. While it may not seem worth it in some cases, remember that the hard times move in waves. If you fold too soon, someone else will be there to gobble up the opportunity, giving them a huge advantage when things bounce back and making it very difficult for other programs “restart operations when things improve.”
Think about Switching MIH-CP Tools and Supplies
During economic downturns, there will be some suppliers who try to work with EMS and community paramedics, and there will be other suppliers who care less about EMS.
It’s worth looking around and reassessing where you are sourcing your supplies. This includes regular supplies, such as bandaging and medical tape, to operational supplies, such as documentation software, tracking services, and data collection systems.
Let’s look at these in more depth.
Look at Various Suppliers
If you’ve been buying supplies from a single company for a long time, it may be worth looking for a quote from other areas. However, in some instances, just because it’s the most prominent company does not mean it will provide the most value.
Some supplies will be general “medical suppliers,” and some will be aimed at EMS and community paramedicine. In these cases, you may find that the smaller, more direct businesses are more willing to work with you regarding pricing. Why? Because you are their customer, and they’ve tailored their entire service for you.
You can’t expect a big-time supplier to make a concession for an EMS MIH-CP program, as EMS is only a tiny fraction of their overall customers. However, don’t just reevaluate your everyday supplies tools; think about your computer systems and software services as well.
Revaluate Your Relationship with Software Providers and Online Tools
How much are you paying for your ePCR software? How about your system tracking software? What about data collection tools? These are all areas to consider.
Many emerging businesses offer reasonable prices and robust software services and are designed for MIH-CP and EMS. So it only takes a small effort to shop around, make some phones call, and get a quote – and it could save you big money without compromising your service.
Keep Going: MIH-CP’s Key to Overcoming Hardships
Finally, keep going. There is a reason so many small businesses have survived for decades. They have their ducks in a row, and when the hard times come, they don’t panic. Instead, they realize that tough times come and go, and it takes courage to withstand the storm.