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Community Paramedics Aim to Lower Health Costs via Home Care

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, February 13, 2013

North Memorial's community paramedic program has been operational since Oct. 15, 2012, with nine certified EMT/CPs on staff and five more EMT/CPs trainees prepping for certification in May. The hospital operates the program for eight hours a day, seven days a week. Each EMT/CP continues to serve primarily in the traditional role on emergency calls in the ambulance. But for one shift a week they change uniforms and drive their own cars to visit patients as CPs.

Because the program has no funding and can't bill for the services, it is limited to patients of North Memorial Clinic primary care physicians. "If we tried to see everybody the amount of requests would be astronomical. There are a lot of people interested in it," Andrew says. "We do not put restrictions on insurance or age. We don't want to duplicate services, so if they are eligible for home health nurses then we wouldn't go."

So far, Andrews says the typical patients "seem to be a lot of elderly people who don't have good family or social support."

"They aren't eating very well and they get confused about their medications," she says. "We set up their medications a week at a time so that they know for sure what to take and when to take it. We have helped people get set up with Meals on Wheels to make sure they're getting food delivered. Technically, if they are not homebound, that is what makes them ineligible for home healthcare. But we can draw the blood anyhow so they don't have to scramble to get to the clinic."

The CPs will spend from 30 minutes to two hours in each home discussing a variety of care concerns. Andrews says one patient receives a call from CPs every morning reminding her to take her meds before breakfast. "It's tailored to each individual patient, which is what I think is so neat about it," she says. "We don't try to fit the patient into a template of care. You set up what works around the patient."

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