Paramedics Continue to Emerge as Home Health MVPs

Efforts to reduce unnecessary hospital visits fall not only on home health agencies these days, but also on more untraditional in-home care providers: paramedics. In some areas, they are proving their value by serving hundreds of patients in their own homes and preventing dozens of hospital visits annually.

A mobile health paramedic pilot program at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, dubbed community paramedicine, trains paramedics in chronic disease management, medication compliance and home safety, all in an attempt to curtail the high costs of emergency room visits and inpatient services, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Community paramedics are sent on scheduled house calls to care for elderly patients or those who struggle to manage chronic conditions, with duties ranging from taking vital signs to administering IV medications and performing lab tests. They consult with doctors, nurses, and other care providers to coordinate treatment and determine risks patients might face.

“Paramedics are a readily deployable, nimble, clinically trained resource who can help close a gap in American health care,” David Schoenwetter, an emergency doctor and head of the initiative, tells The WSJ.

As hospitals incur financial penalties from Medicare and other payers for patient readmission within 30 days of discharge, deploying paramedics proves an innovative way to care for more people. Since its inception in March 2014 up until June 2015, Geisinger community paramedics have prevented 42 hospitalizations, 33 emergency room visits, and 168 inpatient stays among 704 patients served, The WSJ reports.

The Geisinger pilot is one of several such programs across the country. In June 2014, EasCare LLC in Dorchester, Massachusetts became one of the first ambulatory providers to expand the paramedic’s role. Another, launched in October 2013, joined 11 other pilots in the state of Maine to explore the concept of paramedic house calls.

Payment models for programs like Geisinger’s are still evolving. Some are covered by grants, others by Medicaid and still others by Medicare programs that reward hospitals for improving care and better spending health dollars.

Written by Kourtney Liepelt