Pilot program, ‘community paramedicine,’ reduces ambulance runs to ‘super-utilizers’ and gives them appropriate care

Kentucky has several “community paramedicine” pilot programs that allow specially trained paramedics to visit the homes of patients who frequently use the ambulance service to be taken to the emergency room. The program that has resulted in 2 percent fewer ambulance runs in Lexington since February, Miranda Combs reports for WKYT-TV.

“The old idea of the house calls, it’s coming back around now,” EMS Medical Director Dr. Ryan Stanton told Combs. “It’s kind of an untapped resource,” he said, speaking of EMTs and paramedics. “It’s a resource that we know can do a lot more than they’ve been asked to do in the past.”

Using community paramedics to care for “super-utilizers” is a relatively new concept in Kentucky, but as the number of ambulance runs kept rising “at a record pace,” firefighters and EMS told Combs, something had to change.

“In 2013, Lexington fire and EMS made 33,500 ambulance runs, and in 2017 they were up to 48,000 ambulance calls,” Combs writes. At the launch of the program in February, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray added in a news release that 266 people accounted for nearly 9 percent of calls and that medical-run volume had grown 7.5 percent per year in the last three years.

WKYT went on one of the community paramedicine runs to meet Alice, one of their patients who lives in a Lexington apartment and has no family or friends to look out for her. After being put on the community paramedicine list, the crew started visiting Alice in her home and discovered that her dizzy spells were the result of an abnormal heart rhythm that the ER wasn’t catching.

Lt. Patrick Branam told Combs that this program allowed them to be able to connect the “pieces of the puzzle” and then get her to the appropriate place for care. They now take her to see a cardiologists, which he said has “made all the difference for her.”

Firefighters in Lexington told Combs that they are hoping they will have enough funding to continue the program when the grant runs out. The February news release reports that the Lexington program will run through late 2018 and is funded by a $252,210 federal grant, plus $25,221 in local funds.

Community paramedicine pilots are also being conducted in Louisville, Oldham County, Paducah and Montgomery, according to a University of Kentucky news release.

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