Community paramedicine program works to prevent medical emergency calls

Published: Dec. 14, 2017 at 6:31 PM CST
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A group of Madison Fire Department paramedics are seeing success with a pilot program that allows them to work on prevention methods with with people who are frequently calling for emergency services.

The community paramedicine program has been in place in Madison for about two years. It's run by paramedics Gail Campbell and Mindy Dessert. They received additional health care training to start the program.

They work with people like 73-year-old Sandra Espinoza. She started using an oxygen tank a few years ago and struggled to get used to it. She was having a hard time breathing and when she ran in to trouble, she would call 911. In 2015, she called for medical help 127 times.

"Sometimes I would call two or three times a day because I just did not know what I was doing," Sandra said.

Gail and Mindy started making home visits to help teach Sandra how to use her oxygen tank. They worked together to find ways to prevent Sandra from having to get emergency care.

"it just took a little advocating, educating and just coming and spending some time with her and finding out what was that missing piece that 911 was filling," Mindy said.

The program is a partnership with Meriter Hospital. David Hahn, a Nurse Case Manager in the Emergency Department, says the program is part of a growing trend in health care.

"Health care is changing more towards a paitient-centered model. The health care needs of the patients is going beyond the walls of the hospitals and clinics and that change is what we're seeing right now with community paramedicine," Hahn said.

In November, Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill in to law that would create a formal certification program that paramedics can get to create and participate in their own programs, tailored to their community's needs.

Gail and Mindy say they've found a lot of success in their program over the past two years. In Sandra's case, in 2017, she's called 911 less than 20 times. Most of those calls were for health problems unrelated to her oxygen tank.

"I didn't like calling 911 but i didn't know what else to do. It was a mess. I was a mess. I didn't know what to do but now I know," Sandra said.

"It's not real hard stuff it's just kind of figuring out what is that missing piece," Mindy said.