Community paramedic program focuses on preventive care

The two year grant-funded initiative aims to reduce repeat hospital visits and improve quality care for patients

FORT WAYNE, Ind. — A pilot community paramedic program in Indiana will soon provide preventative and follow-up care to patients in their own homes in an effort to improve health care quality and reduce unnecessary hospital visits. 

Parkview Health community paramedicine will work with local nursing homes, social services, and health care providers to follow up with patients in their homes within 24 hours of a hospital discharge.

"This program will deliver health care to the community in an entirely new way," said Dan Garman, senior vice president, Emergency Services, Parkview Health. "Community Paramedicine proactively manages patient’s post-hospital and chronic care outside the emergency department.” 

Paramedics in the program will step outside of their usual emergency response roles and instead focus on delivering preventative and follow up care in an effort to decrease the need for hospital visits and improve patient health. Six paramedics will receive the specialized training for in-home visits, which will include prescription assistance, risk assessment evaluation, wound dressing, monitoring vitals, and general health evaluations.

"The expanded paramedic service not only benefits the hospital through reduced ER visits and hospital readmissions, it increases a patient’s access to primary and preventative care and provides them with the encouragement and tools to improve outcomes after treatment," Garman said.

Parkview Health believes the community paramedicine program will improve follow up care after hospital discharges, slow unnecessary nursing home patient admissions, increase patient safety, and decrease repeat hospital visits for non-urgent care.

"Parkview is committed to providing the right patient care, delivered at the right time and in the right setting, resulting in the best outcomes and most efficient use of healthcare resources," Garman said. "Although cost-savings and decreasing unnecessary ER utilization will benefit the overall healthcare system, the true value of this program is proactively connecting individuals with timely, safe and appropriate healthcare."

According to Parkview’s statistics, 47 patients made 512 emergency room visits from January through May of 2015. Community Paramedicine hopes to decrease some of these repeat visits by working with patients at home to find and eliminate the source of the problem before it escalates to the need for a hospital visit. 

The community paramedicine program will be funded for two years by a grant from the Indiana State Department of health and is one of about 300 similar programs launched recently across the country. Research has shown that these programs have so far been successful at improving patient care after hospital discharges and preventing unnecessary ER visits.

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