When it comes to responding to medical emergencies in the field, no one does it like EMS. From heart attacks to trauma, EMS is there to stabilize patients on scene, get them to emergency departments quickly–and on many days, save a life.
But EMS practitioners know all too well that many of the 911 calls they respond to aren't emergencies. The calls may involve patients with chronic diseases who need extra help managing their condition. Others involve patients with mental health or social issues who also need help–but not necessarily at an emergency department.
Yet for so long, reimbursement models have limited what EMS could do for these patients beyond delivering them to the hospital.
With Mobile Integrated Healthcare (MIH), that's starting to change. Across the nation, hundreds of EMS agencies of all sizes and types are partnering with hospitals, primary care physicians, nurses, and mental health and social services providers on innovative programs that navigate patients to the right level of care.
The goal: lower costs, improve the lives of patients and enable EMS practitioners–including EMTs, Paramedics and Community Paramedics–to use their skills and resources to help solve the problems facing healthcare systems and communities. Examples of MIH programs already implemented include:
- Community Paramedicine programs, which send paramedics with additional training and education into patients' homes or into the community to do patient education and extend primary care in areas that have a shortage of primary care and other basic health resources.
- Nurse triage to provide non-urgent 911 callers with advice, or assistance getting connected with alternative healthcare resources such as primary care, urgent care or mental health services.
- Post-hospital discharge follow-up by EMTs, Paramedics or Community Paramedics to ensure patients with conditions such as congestive heart failure, COPD and diabetes have the tools and information they need to manage their condition at home and avoid preventable readmissions.
- Transporting patients to alternative destinations–such as primary care offices, urgent care, and mental health or detox facilities– instead of the emergency department.
What's even more promising for EMS? The wider healthcare system is listening. Healthcare reform is fueling innovation and a sense of urgency about the need to change the nation's costly, inefficient healthcare system. Organizations like Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) are searching for ways to control costs without compromising patient care, while hospitals–facing millions of dollars in penalties for unnecessary readmissions–are eager for innovations that help avoid that.
NAEMT invites you to explore Mobile Integrated Healthcare, and what it has to offer you as an EMS practitioner, your agency and your patients.