Have you been wondering about mobile integrated healthcare-community paramedicine? This article breaks down the function of these cutting-edge programs.
Mobile integrated healthcare (MIH) and community paramedicine (CP) strive to balance an unstable healthcare system. These programs aim to use common sense when caring for patients, rethinking the EMS response to 911 calls, and considering alternatives to overcrowded emergency departments.
In the sections below, we explore how mobile integrated healthcare can reduce ER visits, lower 911 calls, and deliver high-quality care to patients in the comfort of their own homes.
How Does Mobile Integrated Healthcare Work?
Let’s begin by defining mobile integrated healthcare. Each word has a meaning that will help us understand how this system works.
Here’s the meaning of the three terms:
- Mobile: Mobile integrated healthcare (MIH) meets the patient where they are. Instead of placing the burden of transportation on the patient, MIH takes on that responsibility. How? In the form of paramedics, EMTs, nurses, and mental health professionals traveling directly to the patient’s home.
- Integrated: Our healthcare system is often fractured, with a high amount of duplication and waste. If different healthcare teams are not on the same page, the patient will suffer. Integration wraps providers together, finding ways for everyone to be connected. For example, everyone wins when the ER, the ambulance, and co-responder programs can work together.
- Healthcare: MIH is a branch of healthcare. Providing quality, efficient healthcare is what community paramedicine programs work to achieve.
Above is the basic definition of mobile integrated healthcare. But why do we need this system? What are the tangible benefits?
The sections below explore some failures of our current healthcare system and explain how MIH and community paramedicine offer a remedy.
Is Mobile Integrated Healthcare and Community Paramedicine the Same Thing?
Let’s clarify the relationship between mobile integrated healthcare and community paramedicine.
Mobile integrated healthcare and community paramedicine are essentially the same entity. However, MIH is a broader term, encompassing all sorts of programs such as fall risk, food insecurity, and many more. Community paramedicine teams tend to provide more clinical care such as diagnostic tests and perform assessments on patients with chronic conditions. Community paramedicine programs aim to achieve: seamless integration with other healthcare members.
Here are the areas of medicine that partner with community paramedic programs:
- Family physicians
- Emergency departments
- Community mental health agencies
- Law enforcement
Each of these programs allows patients to be treated in their homes. Instead of being a number in an emergency department, MIH shows patients that their needs matter and that there is more to healthcare than repeated ER visits.
Why We Need Mobile Integrated Healthcare and Community Paramedicine?
There are several significant hang-ups intrinsic to our current healthcare system. First, let’s explore these problems and explain how mobile integrated healthcare and community paramedicine can help.
Here are the issues:
- Crowded emergency departments
- Super-utilizers or “frequent-flyers”
- High rate of hospital readmissions
- Overwhelmed 911 systems
- The global COVID-19 pandemic
The following sections explore these problems in more depth and explain how mobile integrated healthcare can help provide solutions.
How Mobile Integrated Healthcare-Community Paramedicine Reduces ER Visits
Emergency departments are an inherently frustrating place. Nobody wants to end up in the ER. However, these frustrations are compounded when patients are forced to spend hours in the waiting room, sometimes to wait even longer lying in a hallway bed.
A clogged emergency department not only creates confusion and grief among patients but also lowers the ER’s efficiency. Everyone needs to be on board when a truly life-threatening ailment or injury comes through the ER doors.
How can mobile integrated healthcare solve this problem?
Mobile integrated healthcare meets patients where they are, preventing problems before they start.
Often, a patient is in the emergency room because a chronic condition begins spinning out of control.
Community paramedics visit patients in their homes, giving patients an alternative to another ER visit.
Here are some ways community paramedics provide in-home care:
- Performing physical examinations
- Video calls with the patient’s physician
- Keeping tabs on the patient’s medications
- Providing in-home diagnostics, like blood lab draws and urine samples.
Now, let’s address those patients who rely on the EMS system more than others and how mobile integrated healthcare can help.
Mobile Integrated Healthcare-Community Paramedicine and Super-Utilizers
Super-utilizer is a term that refers to patients who access the 911 system and hospital at a much higher rate than the average person.
One study found that 21 people called the ambulance over 800 times within 12 months.
Is this the fault of the patient?
Regardless of our individual opinions, it’s clear that the healthcare system needs to adjust its approach.
With mobile integrated healthcare-community paramedicine, EMS agencies can enroll patients in the program, offering help to these super-utilizers before they reach for the phone to call 911.
If the patients call 911, community paramedic units can be dispatched, provide treatment at the scene and then determine if the patient is a candidate for an alternative destination.
Most patients welcome this nuanced approach, loving the idea of being treated in the comfort of their homes.
Community Paramedicine and Hospital Readmissions
When EMS is looking for a partner in a community paramedic program, the hospital is a logical choice for several reasons:
- First, hospitals want their ERs to operate smoothly. Overcrowding causes dissatisfaction among their workers, leading to nurse and physician shortages, and also deters patients from seeking immediate medical aid when they need it.
- Second, Medicare incentivizes hospitals to reduce readmission rates. For example, if hospitals continually see the same patient readmitted, Medicare could lower its reimbursement rate.
Mobile integrated healthcare means treating the patient in their home before problems arise, providing follow-up visits, and preventative care.
Think of the relationship between hospitals and community paramedics like an auto-mechanic shop and a ten-minute oil change. Taking your car for regular oil changes helps ensure your vehicle doesn’t break down.
In the same way, community paramedics check on their patients and provide needed care, avoiding costly emergencies and hospital stays.
Mobile Integrated Healthcare-Community Paramedicine Aids 911 Systems
Many areas have seen an alarming delay in ambulance response times to emergency calls. Often, this isn’t the fault of the ambulance services. There are too many 911 calls and not enough EMTs and paramedics to go around.
What’s the problem?
Ambulances can’t respond to actual emergencies because they are stretched thin, transporting patients with non-urgent ailments. However, these non-emergency ambulance calls are not a fluke. These are people with real problems.
The answer to this dilemma is not to become frustrated with non-emergency 911 calls; instead, EMS systems must adapt.
Instituting a mobile integrated healthcare-community paramedic program can seem daunting, but it can be done, and there are creative ways to obtain funding for your community paramedic program.
Once EMS agencies institute the CP program, they will filter out the emergency calls that require an ambulance with lights and sirens with those patients whom the community paramedics could handle.
Furthermore, once community paramedics are on scene, they can evaluate patients to determine if they meet the criteria for transport to a non-emergency department destination (urgent care, community mental health, etc.).
Mobile Integrated Healthcare-Community Paramedicine During COVID-19
The pandemic has put a magnifying glass on mobile integrated healthcare-community paramedicine programs. Suddenly, communities everywhere see the vast benefits they can reap from an intuitive community paramedic program.
Here are several ways community paramedics helped patients during COVID:
- House calls during a lockdown: Many patients were confined to their homes during lockdowns. When the lockdowns lifted, some of these patients still felt uncomfortable venturing from their homes. Community paramedics responded to these patients and gave much-needed care, preventing full hospitals from becoming strained further.
- In-home care when doctor’s offices closed: Many patients’ family physician closed their doors for some time during the pandemic. This closing created enormous issues for patients who rely on careful regulation of their conditions – like those with diabetes and patients taking powerful blood thinners. Community paramedics conducted video calls between patients in their homes and physicians in their offices, continuing vital care and reducing hospital overload.
- Vaccinations: As the COVID vaccinations became available, community paramedics reduced crowding in clinics. How? By taking vaccines directly to patients in their homes, protecting the patient, and preventing the spread of disease.
For all this to be possible, providers need to be on the same page – that’s where the idea of integration comes into play.
Let’s talk about how providers can stay connected, combining their strengths to overcome each other’s weaknesses.
Connecting Community Resources
Hospitals, ambulance agencies, and local law enforcement often use different platforms to process and store patient data.
The problem? With each organization using a different system, working together and safely sharing patient information is cumbersome.
A framework is needed to unite healthcare forces. Julota provides software that allows agencies to share data, regardless of their current platform, safely. Clear communication is the key to any relationship, and it’s no different in healthcare.
Julota provides interoperable software; this means effective data sharing, regardless of your companies’ current application.
EMS, hospitals, behavioral health, and law enforcement are all fighting for the same thing: happier, healthier communities. Julota brings these groups together, creating a potent force for good.