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New Mobile Health Program Aims to Avoid Unnecessary ER Visits

A community paramedicine program launched in New Mexico's Valencia County will bring mobile health services to patients deemed most at risk of developing health concerns that end up requiring hospitalization.

Source: ThinkStock

By Eric Wicklund

- The ambulance company serving New Mexico’s Valencia County is partnering with two health plans to launch a community paramedicine program, giving residents access to mobile health services in their homes.

American Medical Response unveiled its Mobile Integrated Healthcare (MIH) program this month following talks with Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico and Molina Healthcare, which will be funding the program for its members.

Through the program, AMR, which employs more than 90 paramedics and support staff for a county of about 77,000 people near Albuquerque, will send specially trained paramedics to homes whose residents are identified by the health plans as needing proactive care.

“Each assessment takes about an hour, but can vary in length,” Shelley Kleinfeld, AMR’s MIH supervisor for New Mexico, told the Valencia County News Bulletin.  “It differs from the assessments done traditionally by EMS providers dealing with acute injuries or illnesses. It focuses more on the whole well-being of the individual providing resources, services and education to the patients so they can better manage their health.”

“When doing an assessment, we perform a risk assessment, needs assessment, fall assessment, and assess patients’ current needs,” she added. “Community paramedics know resources and services that are available in the community and can assist patients to better utilize them. During the needs assessment we can determine if patient is urgently in need of something, whether it’s a food box, water, medications and durable medical equipment. The community medic provider can than help the patients to quickly obtain those resources.”

Community paramedicine programs are taking root across the country as healthcare providers and payers look to address the needs of high-risk patients before they end up calling 911 or showing up in the hospital’s emergency department.

As of mid-2017, some 260 EMS programs across the country were using some sort of community paramedicine program, up from 100 programs in 2014, according to the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians.

Such programs target a “decrease in hospital readmissions, a decrease in emergency care transports, hospice revocation avoidance and savings in healthcare dollars for our patients and their families,” Amie Allison, EMS Director for Montana’s Glacier County, said when the Glacier County Community Health Center launched its first-in-the state Integrated Mobile Health Service Program in early 2017.

“Having the opportunity to work with patients in the homes or work sites gives us the chance to be proactive instead of reactive,” she added.

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