Paramedic care, without the ambulance

Home visits from Fairview’s new “community paramedics” help patients avoid trips to the ER.

Community paramedics

Fairview community paramedics have the skills and experience of traditional EMTs, but they don’t drive ambulances or respond to 911 calls.

“When I was working on the ambulance, I saw emergent problems,” says Jake Capistrant, who has 10 years of paramedic experience, including the past six at HealthEast Medical Transportation. “Now I’m working to care for patients in the hopes of preventing another ambulance trip.”

The program sends community paramedics on regular home visits to patients with complex medical needs who may not qualify for home care, but still have trouble making clinic visits due to health, mobility, or transportation barriers.

The paramedics can do a health assessment, draw blood for lab tests, give injections, conduct a home safety evaluation, and more. They can also make a special visit to help patients determine if they need to go to the hospital or not.

“Being on the ambulance, I saw a lot of patients that just needed someone to come and check them out,” says Kelly Ebben, who has 10 years of experience at HealthEast Medical Transportation and 17 total. “They may not be super sick. Sometimes they just need someone to show them how to take their medications correctly or tell them they’re doing a good job with their treatments.”

Small scope to start

The program is made possible by a grant from UCare and was designed with help from University of Minnesota students. It began in June, working with patients of three Fairview clinics in Minneapolis and Andover. 

More than 150 initial patients were identified using criteria such as frequent ER visits or hospital stays, diagnosed mental health issues, or having chronic conditions.

“These patients have complex needs and have not thrived in traditional care environments,” says Karen Mulder, Fairview’s Director of Care Coordination. “By bringing care to patient homes, the community paramedics can build relationships with patients that can help improve their health and help care teams make more informed choices about effective treatment plans.”

Big potential

The program is promising in a number of ways.

“We believe community paramedics will improve patient experience and patient outcomes, ease provider burden, and help reduce the total cost of care,” Karen says. “We're committed to capturing key metrics and studying the impact of this program, and there's already a lot of excitement in the clinics to utilize the paramedics."

Electronic medical records help connect paramedics with the patient’s clinic. But for Kelly, building relationships with the patients themselves is the key to maintaining their health.

“I miss the ambulance; I’ll admit it,” Kelly says. “But I love getting to know people better and helping them out. We can go in and see a patient daily, weekly, or monthly. It makes a difference.”

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