New Program Will Let Paramedics Visit Chronically Ill Patients Regularly in Their Homes, Reducing ER Visits

Ocala Fire Rescue Department (OFD) has just launched a “community paramedicine program.” The primary aim of this new program is to help keep patients who frequently call 911 out of the emergency room by offering them alternative care at home. Most of these patients have a chronic condition or rare disease.

The Program

This program officially began on April 1st, 2020. Essentially, it allows paramedics to visit patients who frequently call 911 at their homes. These regular visits help the patient to better manage their condition and reduces their need to visit the ER.

One of the first patients supported by the program lives with a chronic kidney disease (CKD) diagnosis.

He was calling 911 and landing in the ER about every three days. With regular visits from paramedics, he has yet to have to return to the ER since the programs launch.

The paramedics went above and beyond with their care, however. They learned that the man was facing a possible eviction, and they stepped in to try to help. They connected the patient with the Office of Homeless Prevention. This organization was able to help him find housing.

Not only was the life of this man completely changed, but an ER bed was freed for other patients.

Logistics

This program needs money to run. Thankfully, a grant of 100,000 dollars from AdventHealth Ocala has made it possible. This grant was arranged by the Community Foundation for Ocala/Marion County.

The grant from the hospital is covering the paychecks for the paramedics. It is also supporting the computer software needed to run the program.

The fire department is contributing the salary of a medical director who will head the program, the vehicle to use for visits, and the money for gas.

The hospital will provide the fire department a list of those patients who frequent the ER for conditions which are chronic like CKD, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

The Benefits

This program benefits patients by decreasing the amount of time they have to spend in a hospital. This is especially beneficial considering the current pandemic. However, the program is also helpful for hospitals who absorb a lot of the cost from frequent ER visits through Medicare. For patients who visits the ER more than once within a 3o day period, the hospital does not receive reimbursement. Therefore, there is also an economic incentive for hospitals to keep patients from frequently taking trips to the ER.

Another financial benefit is for the city, as one transport to the hospital can cost thousands of dollars.

But, the greatest incentive is helping the patient. This new program will help to keep patients stable and healthy, improving their quality of life as a whole.

Looking Forward

This pilot program has a goal of supporting 25 patients who are frequently in the ER. Monitoring will go on for 30-90 days and the paramedics will work with the patients to establish a routine for their disease management.

But, the organizers also have bigger plans. They hope that they will be able to expand the program to the rest of the county and the city. Currently, similar programs also exist in Orlando and Gainesville. It is the tip of the spear, they say. Who knows where it will grow from there?

The fact of the matter is, this is not an issue that is unique to Ocala. It is commonplace in most communities.

We need to work to get patients out of the ER, which is expensive and non-contiguous care, and help patients to better manage their condition in the comfort of their own home.  

You can read more about this new program here.

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