Mobile integrated healthcare-community paramedicine (MIH-CP) has learned a lot. The battle against the coronavirus has taught us much about the world of community medicine. Not only did COVID-19 jumpstart community paramedicine, but it also delivered some helpful lessons about what works and what doesn’t. This article will discuss what MIH-CP teams wish they’d known a year ago. Hopefully, EMS directors and healthcare teams use this information to structure their programs in the years ahead.
We will point out misconceptions about MIH-CP programs and offer some insight on ways to make your program strong.
Five Things MIH-CP Team Programs Wish They Knew a Year Ago
Healthcare is ripe for MIH-CP. However, just because there’s a “market” for something doesn’t mean the execution of the service can be sloppy – especially in healthcare, where people expect and deserve excellence.
Many MIH-CP program directors may be palming their foreheads, asking “why didn’t I think of that sooner?” This article will give you a glimpse into future worries and how to avoid them.
Here are several things MIH-CP programs wish they knew a year ago:
- Don’t just rely on the grants
- Perform a clear needs assessment
- Understand the importance of staffing
- Prepare to diversify services
- Don’t wait to gather data
This guide will help you miss a few potholes on your journey to establishing a strong MIH-CP program.
Seek Long-term Funding Early (Not Just Grants)
The first thing MIH-CP programs wish they’d known a year ago is to seek long-term funding. The trials of funding often come to those who take a passive approach.
Money doesn’t grow on trees, but trees that produce good fruit can attract buyers, and money. The point is this: if you’ve dedicated yourself to creating a good program, there will be funding options. Organizations will be interested in partnering with and funding the MI-CP program, when they see it produces real results.
MIH-CP programs will suffer if they don’t seek funding early and often. Many programs start with grant funding; however, once the grant money is gone, they are left at square one.
Here are several quick tips on funding a community paramedic program:
- Grants. For sure, use grants as the rocket fuel that sends your program to the moon! Just be sure you have a plan for the return trip. Grants are a great way to get started, but they aren’t usually a viable solution for the long term.
- Explore state rules. Some states allow MIH-CP programs to bill directly for their services. This is becoming more popular. Check with your state. If your state doesn’t allow community paramedics to be paid, then it may be time to advocate for expanded laws recognizing community paramedicine.
- Partnerships. Partnerships are essential for good funding. Many areas that begin with grant funding can continue their programs independently by building a strong chain of partners.
If you’re curious, you can read our article on seven ways to fund a community paramedicine program.
Now, let’s talk about another key: a needs assessment.
Perform a Needs Assessment for MIH-CP Teams
What is a needs assessment for MIH-CP? A needs assessment determines the healthcare deficits of the community. These assessments may be more or less formal. However, it’s often worth contacting the local hospital, which is usually required to perform a needs assessment of some type.
While the need for community paramedicine is real, not every area has the same healthcare demands. A hammer is a great tool (and is needed to build a house), but it will not drive screws.
In the same way, community paramedicine must not force a program on an area. Rather, it should morph to the community’s needs. If an area needs help managing patients with chronic illness, then a program addressing alternative destinations probably won’t be the most effective.
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “throw some mud at the wall until something sticks.” Well, if you have infinite resources, lobbing piles of mud at walls may work. However, most people have limited supplies. The purpose of a needs assessment is to determine what health program is most likely to stick. This avoids a lot of wasted time and resources.
After a needs assessment, the MIH-CP team program will be more likely to find and treat the most pressing health issues in a community. If you’re curious, read more about how to perform a needs assessment in our guide to starting a community paramedic program.
Prepare to Actively Recruit and Retain Staff
During a paramedic and EMS staffing shortage, managers may think that a community paramedic program will put them over the edge, leading to even more strain on the department.
Other areas have started a community paramedic program, hoping for the best, only to find they have trouble staffing their trucks, let alone their community paramedic unit.
So, before the MIH-CP program goes forward, it’s important to ensure staffing isn’t overlooked. Too many programs get themselves in a situation where they’re stretched thin.
Here are several ideas to address staffing your community paramedic program:
- Notify the staff first. Ensure that your current staff members are on board with the community paramedic program. EMTs and paramedics will appreciate being part of the decision process, giving them a sense of ownership.
- Make it worth their time. Many community paramedic programs offer to pay increased rates to paramedics and EMTs. Community paramedicine is a different type of work, and it often requires extra certifications. Personnel should be compensated for their expanded role.
- Advertise specifically for MIH-CP team positions. Some paramedics who have moved on to different healthcare roles may be interested in a community paramedic position.
If you’re curious, read our article on how to recruit paramedics. Time to discuss another vital aspect of MIH-CP: diversification.
Diversify Services: Establish Partnerships for MIH-CP Teams
If community paramedic programs aren’t ready to refocus their programs when needed, it’s unlikely they will survive in the long term. Agility is essential.
With the addition of modern technology, every industry is moving faster and faster. Just when one set of guidelines is established, a new set of guidelines is delivered, and just when we think we’ve reached the status quo, there’s a discovery that upends everything.
What’s the point? The point is that things change, and that’s okay, as long as you’re ready to change with it. Many MIH-CP teams programs would have appreciated knowing that – though their initial idea for an MIH-CP program may have been a great idea – it may need to evolve as the healthcare system changes.
Also, depending on the size of the area, there might be a need for rapid pivots. For example, take an MIH-CP program that is providing care for patients with chronic medical conditions. This program has been operating successfully for over a year, but then a home-nursing program starts or expands, and they’re able to reach those same patients.
What’s the answer? Should the two programs fight over who will care for the same patients? Not at all. Rather, the MIH-CP program should be ready to pivot to another pressing need, such as the mental health crisis, or substance abuse treatment and harm reduction.
Successful MIH-CP programs establish several pillars, all helping support the system. For example, the Crawfordsville Fire Department in Indiana has an MIH-CP program that addresses newborn care, chronic diseases, substance abuse, and community vaccinations.
The more diversified and malleable the MIH-CP program, the more likely it will succeed.
Don’t Wait to Gather Data for Your MIH-CP Teams Program
This may be the number one thing MIH-CP programs wish they would have done a year ago. Why? Because gathering data from last year allows you to use that data to your advantage in the next year.
Let’s discuss two reasons you should start gathering good data on day one of your community paramedic program.
First, gathering good data allows you to improve on your faults. If you don’t have a way to evaluate the performance of your MIH-CP program, you’ll have a hard time creating meaningful goals for the next year. For example, if a program aimed at reducing the amount of time PD spends with mental health patients doesn’t deliver on that goal, it may be time to reevaluate.
Second, gathering clear data allows you to use that data to attract partners. If you can clearly show that your program reduced hospital readmissions, resulted in better access to vaccination, or cleaned up bottlenecking at the emergency department, then you have a much better shot at attracting long-term partners and securing consistent funding.
Tracking your data takes your MIH-CP program and gives it wings. It allows you to leverage your skill, experience, and results. Successful MIH-CP programs don’t wait to record data.
Community Paramedicine: Don’t Wait Until Next Year to Help Your MIH-CP Teams
While hindsight always gives a clearer perspective, there’s no reason to look in the rearview mirror and become frustrated. We evaluate, and we move on. We push forward, learning from mistakes and capitalizing on strengths.
Contact Julota to learn how their data collection tools and interoperable software can help MIH-CP programs thrive today and in the future.