Paramedics could play an important role in improving health care for the state’s underserved populations while reducing the strain on emergency rooms, according to a recently published report from the UC Davis Institute for Population Health Improvement.
About one-third of medical emergency calls are not true emergencies, the authors note, yet paramedics are required by law to take all 9-1-1 patients to a hospital emergency department.
The report’s authors urge pilot programs under which paramedics who’ve received additional training would: transport patients who don’t need emergency care to other, more appropriate hospital departments, including a primary clinic, mental health clinic or the patient’s doctor’s office; release individuals at the scene who don’t need care rather than transporting them to a hospital; and helping frequent 9-1-1 callers find primary care or social services.
Paramedics also could make home visits to check on recently discharge patients, check on individuals with chronic conditions or provide immunization or other disease-prevention services.
“Community paramedicine could be an important part of the solution to California’s growing health care access problem,” co-author Kenneth Kizer, institute director and professor of emergency medicine, said in a news release.
“There already are not enough health care workers in California, especially in rural and other medically underserved areas, and the situation is likely to get considerably worse in the next few years as a result of the Affordable Care Act expanding health insurance coverage to many previously uninsured persons, as well as continuing population growth and increasing numbers of people having chronic diseases like diabetes,” Kizer said.
Karen Shore, a policy analyst, and Aimee Moulin, a professor of emergency medicine, co-authored the report.