Let me summarize. This is a blog about way back when house calls were made by doctors in horse-drawn carriages. About congress and healthcare reform. About paramedics today. About keeping people healthy in their homes. And about the future…
Health care in the coming years will look considerably different than it does today due to healthcare reform legislation passed in March 2010 by congress.
One major improvement will be the reshaping of the current model where hospitals are set up to keep patients coming in for service. In the future, the model will shift to the goal of keeping people out of hospitals by helping them maintain their health. That’ll be a huge improvement in the way of approaching health care!
Members of our Community Paramedic Program: Lisa Beard (left), Julie Scott, Sharon Lowry (right), and Julie Bower (in front).
Poudre Valley Health System is already moving in that direction. We have a free Nurse Is In program where each month our community health nurses go to three northern Colorado locations to help people monitor blood pressure, answer medical questions and offer basic health information. Our Aspen Club sponsors many free or low-cost preventive programs for older adults, while our Healthy Kids Club focuses on the health of youth. We also have many other community-based programs and public classes on wellness topics.
One of our efforts that recently received public attention is the Community Paramedic Program. The Coloradoan in Fort Collins, Colo., published a lengthy feature article about the free program Feb. 10 and followed up with a Feb. 12 editorial. In addition, Style Magazine in Fort Collins will soon publish an article about the program.
The program is among the first wave of changes in the way paramedics and emergency medical technicians throughout the nation conduct their work.
Traditionally, paramedics and EMT focus on responding to emergencies, but, since there typically aren’t medical emergencies going on constantly, they sometimes have periods of available time.
Much to their credit, our emergency responders decided to use these periods to develop the Community Paramedic Program to offer basic health screenings to people in their own homes.
The paramedics and EMTs provide in-home blood pressure checks and flu vaccinations. They also do risk assessments designed to help keep people from falling in their homes. In addition, they assist people who have questions about medications.
While all of these are great benefits, for some people the social interaction with the emergency responders is just as important. In some cases, people are home-bound and something as simple as a visitor’s smile and kinds words can help with health. The social interaction also gives emergency responders the opportunity to assess if a person’s mood or mental state have changed.
“We do what we can to help people remain healthy in their homes where they are more comfortable,” said Ted Beckman, a paramedic shift supervisor who is the program’s coordinator. “Preventive programs similar to ours are the future of health care throughout the United States.”
The Community Paramedic Program isn’t meant to replace home-visits by nurses or therapists or a visit to a doctor’s office or the need to call 911. Rather, the program is an excellent option that can save people from unnecessarily leaving their homes.
Our emergency responders launched this program in the fall of 2010. They estimate the program could have prevented up to 18,000 emergency room visits to Poudre Valley Hospital and the Medical Center of the Rockies in 2011. This would have been a significant, positive impact on the two ERs that treated a total of 52,000 patients last year.
Four emergency responders conduct our Community Paramedic Program. They will receive additional training this month in preparation of providing 24-hour coverage. They do the program in conjunction with the Aspen Club, which helps them identify persons who may want to participate. (Community members interested in receiving home visits should contact the Aspen Club, 495-8560.)
When I think about our program, thoughts of the old days to come to mind—back to when doctors in horse-drawn buggies rolled up to the porch steps and the doctor climbed down, black medical bag in hand, to do a home visit.
Those days are long-gone, of course. But some important vestiges remain.
Horse-drawn buggies have been replaced by ambulances that come visiting without emergency lights and sirens going—but the enthusiasm to care for people in their own homes remains.
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