Paramedics may start making house calls

The California Emergency Medical Services Authority (EMSA) has proposed a pilot program to train paramedics to become a bridge between communities and healthcare provider.

EMSA Director Dr. Howard Backer, who has practiced emergency medicine for twenty-five years, says that many who call 911 could be seen in other medical departments and do not need the full range of emergency services. EMSA says there are large gaps in patient care and mobile paramedics could be better utilized to check on those with chronic illnesses to prevent unnecessary crowding in emergency rooms.

"Some of the services would be evaluating patients after discharge from an emergency department or a hospital to make sure they understood and were following the discharge instructions, were taking the appropriate medicines and had follow-up care arranged and that they were actually improving and staying stable, not deteriorating but hesitant to return to the emergency room department," Backer said.

If the community paramedic pilot program is approved, training could begin as early as January 2015. The pilot program would have twelve different test sites in both rural and urban areas of California. It would be primarily funded by individual counties and would run for a year with a possible expansion to a two-year program.

"There are huge gaps everywhere we look in our healthcare system in terms of bridging services from hospital to doctor's office from between, um, inpatient and clinic care and you know home healthcare," Backer said. "So there is a large role for someone with a paramedics level of training -- many different ways where they can support the primary providers which are usually nurses and physicians and help bridge services."

In answer to critics of the program who feel the concept would not be safe for patients," Backer said, "We are looking only for the opportunity to test these concepts under a very highly controlled environment with a very strong evaluation component."


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