New program to help ease congestion in local emergency departments

Posted at: 01/31/2013 10:51 PM
Updated at: 01/31/2013 11:29 PM
By: Lynette Adams

EMT's and paramedics with Brighton Ambulance could soon be making house calls for basis medical care. It's a program called Community Paramedicine.

It's been happening in some rural areas for years, simply because of the difficulty of getting to healthcare facilities.

The director of operations for Brighton Ambulance says Community Paramedicine could work in our area, saving you time and money and easing the congestion and wait in local emergency departments.

The Center for Disease Control says $136 million people nationwide wait in emergency departments for care every year and not only are those visits increasing, Press Ganey, an advocacy agency for healthcare organizations says the average wait is 6 hours.

News10NBC heard a plan from Brighton Volunteer Ambulance aimed at solving this program and we wanted to know if it could work here.

Jonathan Smith, Brighton Volunteer Ambulance, said, “We see patients who call us on a regular basis for simple things for instance falls.”

Jonathan Smith says that's about 15 percent of the calls that come in to Brighton ambulance everyday are calls from people who need care, but not necessarily emergency care. Many of these people end up in a local emergency department. Smith, who is the director of operations for Brighton Volunteer Ambulance, thinks there's a better way.

Smith said, “Realistically, we're look to extend the reach of primary care physicians and also reduce the need for emergency visits, by providing that care in the home or at least assisting in the provision of the primary care.”

It's a relatively novel program called Community Paramedicine. Paramedics and EMT's would make essentially house calls providing basic medical care to people who are chronically ill, freeing up doctor offices and emergency departments.

Smith said, “EMS is the interface between public safety and the healthcare industry. So we are out there, in the homes in their natural environment which the physician doesn't do in his office. That puts us at a great advantage. We can see them in their natural home, the way they normally need. We see more likely their compliance with their medications. We see what they help, they need and what they can benefit from.”

News10NBC's Lynette Adams said, “A lot of people worry about who would make the decision. Do we take this person to the emergency department or do we care for them at home?”

Smith said, “To decide which patients would be a part of our service would be a collaborative effort between us as the group offering the service and your primary care physician that you already see. so your physician would be an active component of that program.”

So what do physicians think of this idea?
Dr. Janet Williams is a board certified emergency physician who runs Rochester Immediate Care in Greece.

Dr. Janet Williams said, “The partnership with the primary care physician is very important. It could be very successful.”

Smith says there is a program that could be implemented, but he says the financing part still has not been worked out. For example how much it would cost? Who would pay? How would the ambulance company get reimbursed? He says they hope to get insurance companies and the state health department on board.