Recovery

Brunswick Explores Community Paramedic Program

A community paramedic would visit the discharged patient’s home and 'medically monitor them' by checking their vitals, teaching family members how to use medical equipment the patient needs.

by Makenzie Holland, Star-News, Wilmington, N.C. / March 6, 2018

(TNS) - County officials are looking into adopting a community paramedics program to serve residents who have recently been discharged from the hospital, with the goal of keeping them from becoming return visitors.

Kevin Mulholland, Brunswick County EMS operations manager, said the program would benefit the county in a number of ways. He said community paramedics would meet the “unmet medical needs” of citizens who are recent hospital and nursing home discharges.

Mulholland said county EMS would work with Novant Health to reach recent discharges.

“We would go out there and help them try and avoid repeat trips to the emergency room and repeat admissions to the hospital,” he said.

A community paramedic would visit the discharged patient’s home and “medically monitor them” by checking their vitals, teaching family members how to use medical equipment the patient needs, and more, Mulholland said.

The community paramedic program also would be able to provide assistance to residents on the county’s medically fragile registry who might need help in situations such as an evacuation due to a hurricane.

Mulholland said the program would also work with opiate response by conducting follow-up visits with people who have recently overdosed.

“We would have follow-ups with recent overdoses so we could reduce the response, resuscitate, relapse situation plaguing our area,” he said.

Mulholland said the program would cost $278,113 to get off the ground and have a recurring yearly cost of $215,000. County Manager Ann Hardy said the program will be taken into consideration as part of the regular budget planning process of the upcoming 2018-19 fiscal year, which starts July 1.

Other counties, including New Hanover, already run community paramedic programs.

New Hanover Regional Medical Center (NHRMC) has had a community paramedicine program for the past four years, said Sarah Rivenbark, NHRMC community paramedic.

According to a 2016 report on community paramedicine pilot programs, NHRMC community paramedicine patients had a 5-7 percent reduction in readmission rates compared to all NHRMC hospital patients.

Additionally, the hospital enrolled 20 of the most frequent users of EMS services into the program and compared their use of EMS services one year before their enrollment in the program to one year after. The study found a $558,000 decrease in expenses. The median charge per patient before their enrollment in the program was $123,046 -- a figure that dropped to $44,425 after joining the program.

“This program originally was in response to how we could possibly decrease readmission rates for the hospital … that was our focus,” Rivenbark said. “We worked to be able to fill gaps within the community and not duplicate services, but focus on services that were not currently provided to patients or patients that did not qualify for the services offered.”

Reporter Makenzie Holland can be reached at 910-343-2371 or Makenzie.Holland@StarNewsOnline.com.

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