Is your EMS agency considering implementing a community paramedicine program? Then, you are in the right place. Below, we delve into the pros and cons of a community paramedicine program.
A well-oiled community paramedicine program can lower ER visits, reduce 911 emergencies, and increase patients’ quality of life.
On the other hand, community paramedicine programs can be a burden to fund. Also, unknowingly, it is easy for these programs to duplicate services. Finally, many organizations worry about complying with patient privacy laws.
In the sections below, we will discuss the benefits of a community paramedic program. Then, we will examine some of the obstacles and several ways to overcome them.
Benefits of a Community Paramedicine Program
There are many benefits to a community paramedic program. However, it is essential to realize that benefits rarely come without cost. If we can highlight the benefits and reduce the negatives, we will find the best possible solution.
Here are three pros to a community paramedicine program:
- Reduction in ER Visits
- Less emergency 911 calls
- Increased quality of life
Let us look at each of these in more depth.
Community Paramedicine Programs Reduce Emergency Department Visits
Emergency departments are already stressful; however, an overcrowded emergency room increases patient and staff anxiety exponentially. Additionally, these unnecessary ED visits burden an already fiscally challenged Medicaid system. Thankfully, community paramedic programs can help reduce the workload and improve patient care.
Here is how:
- Giving patients other options
- Alternative destinations
- Treating low acuity illness
Below, we explore these in more depth.
Community Paramedic Programs Give Patients an Alternative to ER Visits
Depending on the community, some patients rely on the emergency room as their primary form of healthcare. Sometimes, these patients are unaware of other options or cannot access them.
Community paramedic programs offer patients another option. EMS agencies can discuss the benefits of the program with the patient and the physicians involved. If it is a good fit, then routine in-home visits can reduce ER stays.
Community Paramedics can Transport to Alternative Destinations
Suppose a patient needs an Urgent Care clinic or a community mental health consult. In that case, the community paramedic can choose an alternative transport destination.
In the past, ambulances could only transport patients to the emergency rooms. Now, more and more community paramedic programs have found alternative destinations to improve patient care.
Community Paramedics can Treat Non-emergency Ailments
With direct contact with a physician, community paramedics can help treat patients without transport to the ER.
Here are a few ways community paramedics can provide in-home treatment:
- Medication adjustment
- Blood draws
- Wound care
- Coordinating fall prevention by installing rails and removing dangerous rugs
- Telehealth with a PCP
Physicians and EMS organizations can train community paramedics to meet the need at the source, negating the need for an ER visit.
Community Paramedics Reduce Emergency 911 Calls
911 calls and ER visits are directly related. However, there are instances where an ER may be equipped to handle a high influx of patients. However, an EMS agency may not have access to the same resources.
Regardless of the region’s operational ability, we can all agree that fewer emergencies equal a happier, healthier community.
Here are a few ways community paramedics reduce 911 emergencies:
- Following up with super-utilizers
- Triaging non-emergency calls
Let us take a closer look.
Community Paramedics and Super Utilizers
Data indicates that a tiny portion of the population makes up a large number of 911 calls. For example, in Chicago, one patient called 911 over four hundred times in 18 months.
How do ambulances solve this? By treating the source.
Some patients will require more help than other patients. There are many reasons for this: health impairments, lack of family support, or being disconnected from the community.
As strange as it sounds, some patients need help removing their socks, walking to their commode, or just needing a sandwich. These are all fundamental needs; unfortunately, some patients feel 911 is their only option for help.
Community paramedics can step in and connect patients with more efficient care options, thereby reducing stress on a busy 911 system.
Community Paramedics can Triage Personnel to Non-Emergencies
If someone calls 911 for a non-emergency, community paramedics can respond to the issue without taking another ambulance out of service.
With intuitive software and dispatchers, true emergencies can be determined and triaged appropriately. On the other end, if a 911 call is not a true emergency, ambulance dispatchers can initiate the appropriate response.
This tailored response improves patient care and reduces the dangers of driving lights and sirens to every call.
Community Paramedic Programs Increase Patient’s Quality of Life
Finally, community paramedicine programs directly impact a patient’s quality of life.
Here are few ways community paramedics impact a patient’s life:
- Removing the burden of transportation
- Eliminating exposure to infection
- Reducing patient anxiety
- Allowing direct lifestyle assessment
Now, let us cover some of the hurdles organizations face.
Downsides to Starting a Community Paramedicine Program
In this section, we address some of the cons of a community paramedicine program. The best way to succeed is to be realistic about the issues.
Here are fours major cons to most community paramedicine programs:
- Unknowingly duplicating services
- Complying with patient privacy
- Ineffectively collecting patient information
Below, we discover more about these issues and explore ways to combat them.
Funding a Community Paramedic Program
Many community paramedicine programs struggle to procure sufficient funding. Even if they can get off the ground, it can be challenging to procure sustainable sources of income.
Grants will eventually run out, and, sometimes, EMS agencies fail to create meaningful relationships.
One way of combating a lack of funding is to increase meaningful data storage. In addition, by keeping your community paramedicine program organized, you will be in a better position to form meaningful connections.
When looking for a partner (law enforcement, hospitals, local governments), they will want to see that you have done your homework and are keeping your ducks in a row. Julota is an efficient way to safely store patient and organizational data, allowing you to present your case when applying for funds.
Community Paramedicine Programs can Accidently Duplicate Services
Community paramedic programs are a powerful thing when wielded correctly. However, when addressing a community’s demands, the goal is to dedicate the resources to the areas of greatest need.
Unfortunately, there are times when useful programs can overlap.
For instance, a city might have a strong home health nursing program but lack adequate mental health resources. It would be ineffective for the community paramedicine program to duplicate the nursing program instead of reaching out to the mental health needs.
The remedy is to create a game plan each provider can follow.
Hospitals, law enforcement, ambulance services, and human mental health agencies fight the same battle: improving the lives of citizens in their communities. Julota provides a playbook where each organization can evaluate the community’s needs.
Community Paramedics must Protect Patient Information
Coordinating patient care is vital to achieving an effective community paramedic program. As we discussed in the last section, local agencies need to keep tabs on each other to eliminate duplication of services.
Nevertheless, there is a problem. How do you share information without compromising protected health information?
We need to share information to coordinate services, but we cannot risk compromising protected health information (PHI).
Here is the answer: a data collection system that complies with all privacy laws.
Julota is compliant with HIPPA, CFR 42, SAMSHA, and CJIS. When you use Julota as the software hub for your community paramedic program, you ensure that protected information is only shared with people who are authorized to have it.
Community Paramedics Lack Industry Specific Patient Reporting
As paramedics and EMS agencies begin to transition into more preventative, home-based care, they will also need to adapt their software.
Most EMS data collection systems, often called ePCR’s (electronic patient care reports), are designed for 911 calls. While these systems are excellent for emergencies, they do not fully support a community paramedic’s evolving and multifaceted needs.
Community paramedics are not taking care of a patient in a single moment; they seek to provide a holistic care plan, addressing long-term needs.
To adequately care for a patient, community paramedics need to know more than their address. Medical history, past surgeries, medications, allergies – this information proves vital when community paramedics call on a patient.
Thankfully, ePCRs are not the only option. Some systems offer a multifaceted service tailored for the community paramedic’s needs. Julota helps EMS agencies build practical approaches to each patient.
Instead of just a postcard, Julota lets you create an entire roadmap. Julota helps paramedics and physicians evaluate the past and plan for the future.
Final Words on the Pros and Cons to a Community Paramedic Program
Community paramedic programs provide an excellent service to any community. By dousing embers before they become forest fires, community paramedics prevent 911 calls, reduce ER visits, and lower hospital admission rates.
However, community paramedicine can only achieve these goals by overcoming several hurdles: funding, overlapping services, and collecting patient information are just a few.
Thankfully, tools like Julota help EMS agencies climb these mountains. Julota gives EMS agencies a resume to obtain funding, a blueprint to coordinate services, and a secure platform for protected health information.