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Paramedics help people avoid emergency rooms

Written by Avram Goldstein

A new initiative is underway around the country to use firefighter paramedics to keep people out of hospitals and direct them to appropriate primary care or other services. And, it’s working! With support from the California Health Foundation, firefighter paramedics in the Golden State are being trained to identify individuals who use hospital emergency rooms frequently for non-emergency situations and, instead, pay them regular visits. The goal is to get them needed care so that they don’t call 911 or need to use the emergency room. The paramedics call on them in their homes and connect them to regular doctors or other services that can keep their health on track.

In California, with authorization from the State Emergency Services Medical Authority, 13 jurisdictions are participating in this pilot program. Some of the programs focus on people who have just been discharged from hospitals. Others treat “frequent flyers” who are thought to use emergency rooms more than necessary.

Conventional paramedics typically spend about 20 minutes talking with the 911 callers in their homes and another 20 minutes taking them to the hospital. Instead, community paramedics partner with people in need of care and create a plan with them so they get access to the services they need most that can help them better care for themselves. Not surprisingly, their clients want this help and are willing participants.

The paramedics drop by to visit patients and work with them to achieve their goals, including checking their blood pressure, ensuring they take their prescription drugs,  and undertaking bio-psycho-social assessments of their situations. If appropriate, the paramedics may refer them to a social worker, arrange for home-delivered meals, connect them to local agencies that treat substance abuse disorders.

In short, these paramedics show they care. As a result, these patients have had fewer hospital visits and a better quality of life.  For more information, click here. To learn more about the high number of older adults living alone, elder orphans, for whom these services can be life-saving, click here.


1 Comment

  • Maine has implemented this program also. My own volunteer fire department has our EMTs participating in it as one of the five programs in the state, and is the only volunteer department. It’s an innovative idea that seems to be working well.

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