The Importance of Flexibility When Managing a Community Paramedicine Program

Managing a community paramedicine program is difficult in an ever-changing environment. This guide discusses the importance of flexibility when operating a mobile integrated healthcare-community paramedic program (MIH-CP).

Community paramedic programs operate in some of society’s most dynamic environments. These MIH-CP teams are in the field, responding to needs as they come in and doing their best to carry out treatments that genuinely help people. However, as many of us know, times change fast. For community paramedic programs to operate efficiently, they must make quick adjustments when necessary.

Let’s talk about what “flexibility” means in relation to a community paramedic program. We’ll talk about some areas where community paramedic programs go wrong and how successful programs keep going strong (even in the face of significant changes).

Why Mobile Integrated Healthcare Programs Need to Remain Flexible

To start, let’s explain some of the reasons that flexibility is so crucial for community paramedicine. We’ve all heard the saying, “this is how we’ve always done things.” While that may work for some industries, it is not the most effective method for community paramedicine.

The modern world constantly presents new health needs. Programs that want to be successful must be realistic about the importance of adapting to new environments and overcoming new obstacles. With that said, let’s discuss why keeping your program pliable is important.

Here are three reasons MIH-CP programs should remain flexible:

  • Community health needs will change
  • Emergencies will happen
  • Partners will come and go

Let’s examine some of these points closer (later, we’ll give you some practical tips on keeping your program ready for changes).

MIH-CP Needs Flexibility: Community Health Needs Will Change

Simply put, community health needs will change. For example, imagine that your program operates in a rural area. Perhaps your community paramedic program was initiated to help several super-utilizers find better alternatives.

While the program may have been successful, there may come a day when super-utilizers are not an issue. Perhaps those few patients moved to a new area, or the MIH-CP program helped show them better alternatives than constantly calling 911. Regardless of the reason, the program needs to adapt to this change.

Will the program fizzle out because the need is no longer there? Or will it take steps to branch into new areas of need? Perhaps there are fewer super-utilizers, but maybe now there is an uptick in substance abuse or mental health-related emergencies.

MIH-CP Needs Flexibility: Emergencies Happen

Along with natural changes in people’s needs, there are often unexpected changes. An excellent example of this is the COVID-19 pandemic. Suddenly, many patients wanted to remain home. In this case, community paramedic providers needed to pivot to meet the need.

Perhaps the programs needed to hire and train new paramedics or increase the amount of time the program operated on the road. A sudden influx in demand can have negative effects if the MIH-CP program isn’t ready to meet it.

MIH-CP Needs Flexibility: Partners Will Come and Go

Finally, as some patient populations will ebb and flow in their needs, community health partners may also come and go. For example, a hospital may take a different approach to reducing hospital readmission rates. Or perhaps a tiny health clinic can no longer operate with the program.

In these situations, stiff and immobile community paramedics will risk collapse. This is the old “putting too many eggs in one basket” situation. Community paramedic programs must anticipate changes in their partners and plan to adjust.

Now, let’s look at how you can ensure your program remains flexible.

How to Keep Your Community Health Program Flexible

Just like diversifying investments will protect funds, keeping your MIH-CP program loose and limber will help ensure long-term success. But, on a practical level, what can you do to keep your community program poised and ready to adjust? In the following sections, we’ll look at several things you can do to stretch your program to remain flexible and avoid injury metaphorically.

The key is understanding the pitfalls of many community paramedic programs. If you know where you’re likely to struggle, you’re in a much better position to prevent problems before they become a severe threat to your program.

How to keep your MIH-CP healthy and flexible:

  • Understand the needs of your area
  • Keep an eye on the finances
  • Make strides to reach out to new partners (even during good times)
  • Listen to the community

Below, we’ll unpack each of these points at greater length.

Stay Ready by Understanding the Needs of the Area

The first thing you can do to remain flexible and resilient is to start with a good foundation. Just as a house needs a strong foundation, a paramedic program needs to begin with a strong knowledge of the community. While you will need to adjust as you go, it’s helpful to remember the broad needs of the community from the beginning.

Consider a community paramedic program that chooses to focus on chronic disease management. Now, let’s imagine that this program takes a wide-scale approach to the program. While they are focused on chronic diseases, this program also knows that the area struggles with mental health issues, that there is a large homeless population, and that some young mothers need maternity care.

By taking a broad view of the issues, this program puts itself in the best position to provide good care and pivot when it’s time for a change. If the program had taken a narrow view, it may find itself off-balance when a change occurs.

Keep an Eye on the Finances

The second way to stay flexible is to oversee the finances. As community paramedicine works to establish more concrete modes of reimbursement, you will have to be persistent when trying to fund your community paramedic program.

Many programs will get off the ground with a grant. This is a great way to launch; however, grants don’t last forever, so it’s essential to always look for funding opportunities. If you take the time to establish multiple sources of revenue, you’ll be in a much better position to handle struggles when things get complicated.

While it can be stressful to seek out ways to generate revenue, if you begin a habit of working to establish connections right at the start, you’ll have an easier time.

In the following sections, we’ll discuss a few other important elements of MIH-CP closely tied to steady funding.

Make Efforts to Reach Out to New Partners

Community paramedicine is a team sport. As with any team, each member must be there for the other when something goes wrong. To ensure a strong and healthy team, regularly reaching out to new (and current) partners is wise.

Why? Well, even a strong partner may go through a tough season, making them less able to contribute to the overall program. However, if you have an extensive network of community connections, you’ll be much less susceptible to adverse effects if a partner must cut ties.

Take the time to consider all options for partnerships in your area. Sometimes, it helps to think outside the box. While you may have already contacted health clinics and hospitals, institutions like community centers and non-profit businesses might be interested in supporting the program.

As any business will tell you, fostering good relationships with your current partners is just as important as reaching out to new people. Let’s talk about this.

Interact with and Listen to the Community (Meetings, Surveys, Etc.)

We’ve all been on a sports team or part of a group project where one of the participants just isn’t engaged. Instead of taking initiative, these people will try to push work off on others and avoid any responsibility. When managing a community paramedicine program, you want to avoid this.

Instead, do your best to actively reach out to your community partners (or potential community partners). Attend stakeholder meetings and show the team members you’re motivated to do whatever it takes to make the program work.   

Even in this digital age, showing up in person and showing others that you’re interested in what they say can have many positive effects.

Conclusion: How to Stay Flexible When Managing a Community Paramedicine Program

Staying flexible while managing a community paramedicine program is more crucial than ever. Times are changing fast, and so are the community’s health needs. Emergencies happen, and priorities change—you want to be ready to adjust when needed.

To stay flexible, take the time to establish a solid foundation for your program. Ensure you’re always looking for new ways to fund the program and try to stay connected with your partners. Contact Julota to learn more about how their cloud-based data collection platforms can help your pro