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Consider Community Paramedicine to Tackle Rising Healthcare Costs

James Crutchfield | Jul 11, 2017

Over the past several years Manatee County, Florida has continued to experience an increase in the indigent – low income – population, which directly correlates to increased healthcare spending and county government subsidy. Struggling to decrease this high cost of healthcare, Manatee County Paramedicine Division designed a mixed delivery of public, preventative and chronic health care management at a lower cost than the traditional 911 ambulance service model.

Manatee County Community Paramedics

Two-Fold Approach to Community Paramedicine

Dedicated to being “More than Lights and Sirens,” EMS Chief Paul DiCicco and I pitched the Community Paramedic approach to county officials. Manatee County’s Community Paramedic Program successfully launched in June 2016 and is currently fully operational. The program is made up of a Division Chief, two full-time Community Paramedics and a robust web of local resources that work seven days a week. Besides connecting frequent emergency system users with appropriate primary care services, the Community Paramedic Program focuses on fall and injury prevention (through home-safety inspections), expanded resources for mental health and substance abuse clients, and improved disease management for patients with diabetes, congestive heart failure, and chronic respiratory conditions.

The purpose of Manatee County’s Community Paramedicine Program is two-fold:

  1. Increase health equity by improving health outcomes among those considered medically most vulnerable;
  2. Save health care dollars by preventing unnecessary ambulance transports, emergency room visits and inpatient hospitalizations.

A key theme in our community paramedicine program is overcoming geographic and transportation barriers through outreach and home visits to meet the needs of low-income residents in county locations where primary care providers and public transportation resources are scarce. The program also responds to specific issues and disproportionate impacts on Manatee County’s most vulnerable populations in the areas of chronic disease management, behavioral health and substance abuse.

a community paramedic program staff visiting a low-income resident

Leverage Formal & Informal Health Partnerships

The Manatee County Community Paramedic Program has fostered formal and informal partnerships that enable the community paramedic program to function and operate in the most efficient manner.  Our program’s success can be contributed to the strong web of local resources that have been established with local hospitals, primary care providers, elder services, Department of Health-Manatee, mental health providers, substance abuse specialists, pharmacists, dietitians, social workers and a strong backing from our Board of County Commissioners. All partnerships assist with advocacy efforts and promote providing all patients with the right care, at the right time, at the right cost.

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