6 Helpful Tips for Starting a Community Paramedicine Program

6 Helpful Tips for Starting a Community Paramedicine Program

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Community Paramedicine is not a new concept, but it is a growing and much needed trend that is being embraced by many fire departments and EMS – and the positive results are encouraging. The Seminole County Fire Department Community Paramedicine Program (SCFD CP) was launched in January 2022 and has grown into something remarkable.

Some of the motivating factors for launching our Community Paramedicine program were to keep patients at home and reduce repeat non-emergency 911 calls, while avoiding unnecessary hospitalizations.

When we started, we had to research and test the waters to develop a CP program that worked best for the population we serve (the population of Seminole County, Florida is an average-sized county of 500,000). To date, our CP SCFD has visited over 1,500 residents and has enrolled 10% of the residents we visit. Here are 6 tips we learned that are helping our program grow and succeed:

  1. Establish protocols and training. Our protocols and trainings include how to get in touch with our residents, how to generate referrals, how to use our reporting system, how to make the best use of all our available resources, registering for our specific programs and how a resident qualifies for a specific program. We also had to train our paramedics on deregistration/graduation of our residents out of the program. This included how to use our contacts and resource lists to ensure we met their needs while ensuring residents are comfortable following our recommended guidelines to successfully move forward. Our enrollment programs are organized according to need, including fall risk, social issues, diabetes issues and COPD, to name a few. We have also expanded our services to include vaccinations, HIV testing and blood tests.
  2. Hire the best and be customer-centric. One of the reasons our CP program works so well is that we have seasoned, dedicated and care paramedics who are integral to the success of our program. When residents know that our paramedics are truly concerned about their well-being, you have a built-in arsenal of people who are your advocates or “die-hard fans” of your program. We have two 40 hour paramedics and we use paramedics off duty. Our residents feel comfortable with our paramedics because of the rapport established and the trust created in the field. With this relationship established, the registered resident tends to be more accepting of our recommendations and feedback. If registration is the right choice for the resident, we schedule their visits to be performed by the same paramedic each time they visit their home. This is beneficial as it keeps their plan organized and moving forward, and allows us to keep a great rapport intact.
  3. Build and develop partnerships. Community paramedicine is not meant to operate in silos. Your department has only a limited number of resources and personnel. As our program has grown, we have found ways to connect and partner with surrounding services and organizations. This includes non-profit organizations such as Meals on Wheels, faith-based organizations, our local health department, sheriff’s office, our emergency management team, and local hospitals. The more we grow, the more our opportunities increase. Always seek out and be open to fostering relationships and partnerships as they ultimately help your residents.
  4. Communicate effectively. Whether it’s your Board of County Commissioners, local leaders, local media, residents, or internal firefighters, it’s important to communicate and get buy-in for what you’re doing. The better and more effectively you communicate, the more partnerships and connections you can build and reach your target audiences. Effective communication can also ensure that you are prepared for potential funding. We have also been able to speak out in several communities of people over the age of 55 and have partnered with our health department for community outreach activities which in turn help us connect with a greater many of our residents.
  5. Be tax-smart and explore long-term financing options. This is where your partnerships can help make an impact. Having partnerships with other resources comes into play by allowing you to provide more help or extended help without hurting your funding. One of our most important partnerships to date is with our health department. We have created a pathway that allows us to take our residents out of our CP program and into caring hands. This allows our residents to benefit from continued care for longer and allows funds to be used for new residents who enroll in our CP program.
  6. Embrace technology and always evolve. Make sure your Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) can help you track your CP visits so you can use it for reporting. Measurable results and objectives are essential. As we move into the future, we will add aspects of healthcare to link to residents’ physicians, to enable home visits via the Internet.

Remember that community paramedicine is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Plug in different directions to see what works for the community you serve. Not all programs will work the same, and community paramedicine does not work in all areas. It’s a learning curve, but the good thing is that you can create what will suit your residents perfectly.

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