Some of the motivating factors for launching our Community Paramedicine Program were to keep patients at home and reduce the repeated non-emergency calls to 911, while avoiding unnecessary hospital admissions.
When we started, we needed to research and test the waters to develop a CP program that worked best for the population we serve (Seminole County, Florida’s population is a mid-size county of 500,000). To date, our SCFD CP has visited over 1,500 residents and has enrolled 10% percent of the residents we visit. The following are 6 tips we have learned that are helping our program grow and be successful:
Establish protocols and training. Our protocols and training include how to connect with our residents, how to generate referrals, how to utilize our report writing system, how to best use all our available resources, enrollment in our specific programs and how a resident qualifies for a specific program. We also had to train our paramedics on the unenrollment/graduation of our residents out of the program. This included how to utilize our contacts and resource lists to ensure we have achieved their needs while making sure residents are comfortable following our recommended guidelines to successfully move forward. Our enrollment programs are organized into needs including fall risk, social, diabetic issues and COPD, to name a few. We have also extended our services to include vaccines, HIV testing and blood draws.
Recruit your best and be customer centric. One of the reasons why our CP program works so well is we have seasoned, dedicated and caring paramedics who are integral to our program’s success. When residents know our paramedics are truly concerned about their wellbeing, you have a built-in arsenal of people who are your advocates or “raving fans” of your program. We have two 40-hour paramedics and we utilize some off-duty paramedics. Our residents feel comfortable with our paramedics because of the rapport built and trust created in the field. With this relationship built, the enrolled resident tends to be more accepting of our recommendations and input. If enrollment is the right choice for the resident, we schedule their visits to be performed by the same paramedic every visit at their home. This is advantageous because it keeps their plan organized and moving in a forward direction, and allows us to keep an excellent rapport intact.
Build and develop partnerships. Community paramedicine is something that is not meant to operate in a silo. Your department only has so many resources and personnel at its disposal. As our program grows, we have found ways to connect and partner with surrounding services and organizations. This has included nonprofits such as Meals on Wheels, faith-based organizations, our local health department, the sheriff’s office, our emergency management team and local hospitals. The more we grow, the more our opportunities grow. Always look for and be open to fostering relationships and partnerships as they ultimately help your residents.
Effectively communicate. Whether it is to your Board of County Commissioners, local leaders, local media, residents or internal fire personnel, it’s important to communicate and get buy-in on what you are doing. The better and more effectively you communicate, the more partnerships and connections you can establish as well as reach your target audiences. Effective communication can also ensure you are set up for potential grant funding. We have also been able to speak at several 55-plus senior communities and have partnered with our health department on community outreach which, in turn, helps us connect with more of our residents.
Be smart fiscally and explore long-term funding options. This is where your partnerships can help make an impact. Having partnerships with other resources comes into play by allowing you to provide more help or extended help without adversely impacting your funding. One of our most significant partnerships so far is with our health department. We have created a path that allows us to graduate our residents out of our CP program and into caring hands. This allows our residents to have continued care longer and allows for funds to be used for newer residents enrolling in our CP program.
Embrace technology and always evolve. Ensure that your computer-aided dispatch (CAD) can help track your CP visits so that you can use it for reporting. Measurable outcomes and objectives are essential. As we move to the future, we will add healthcare aspects to be linked to the resident’s physicians, to allow at-home visits via internet.
Remember, community paramedicine is not a one-size-fits all approach. Branch out into different directions to see what works for the community you serve. Not all programs are going to work the same and community paramedicine doesn’t work in all areas. It is a learning curve, but the good thing is you can create what will be the perfect fit for your residents.
This article, originally published in November 2022, has been updated.
About the author
Lt. Curtis Halcom serves as the lead for the Seminole County Fire Department and has more than 20 years of experience as a firefighter/paramedic. For more information about the Seminole County Fire Department’s Community Paramedicine Program, visit www.seminolecountyfl.gov/paramedicine.