Community paramedicine (CP) is an emerging healthcare profession. It allows paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) to operate in expanded roles to provide healthcare services to underserved populations. It is a way to improve rural emergency medical services (EMS) as well as address the healthcare needs of the community.
Some rural patients lack access to primary care, and misuse 911 services in an attempt to access emergency departments for routine healthcare. This is demanding on volunteer EMS personnel in rural areas and causes strains on the workforce. Working in a primary care role, community paramedics can meet the needs of such individuals, as well as others in the community, in a more efficient and proactive way.
What is community paramedicine and how can this type of program benefit rural communities?
Community paramedicine is about filling local healthcare gaps by using existing providers in different roles. Community paramedics generally focus on:
- Providing primary care
- Post-discharge follow-up care
- Integration with local public health
- Providing education and health promotion programs
Paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) are respected in their communities, and in rural communities are often consulted for healthcare advice by their friends and neighbors. The public welcomes these healthcare professionals into the private space – their home – without hesitation. Paramedics already have and use skills like giving shots and mixing and administering medication IV drips. While in their traditional role, a paramedic might give a patient a shot of Valium; the Community Paramedic would use that same skill in a different role, such as giving a “shot” of immunization.
This model can also benefit rural EMS agencies by:
- Reducing requests for service that are inappropriate and not reimbursed
- Decreasing the amount of “down time” between calls, while at the same time allowing them to better serve resident’s needs
- Increasing revenue by billing patients or third party payers for services provided, when able to do so