California Healthline Daily Edition

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Calif. Seeks To Implement Paramedic, EMS Worker Pilot Programs

California's Emergency Medical Services Authority and the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development seek to develop community paramedicine programs that would expand paramedic and EMS worker responsibilities to help fill gaps in health care services, HealthyCal reports.

Details of Programs

Similar programs already have launched in other states -- including Colorado and Texas -- that give paramedics responsibilities that typically are handled by primary care providers.

Christopher Montera -- assistant CEO of the Western Eagle County Ambulance District in Colorado, which has piloted a community paramedicine program -- said that area paramedics' responsibilities under the program include:

  • Blood tests;
  • Neonate visits; and
  • Medication reconciliation.

Montera said that so far in the program's first year, it has saved $1,250 per visit in health care costs for each of its 29 patients over 97 visits.

EMSA officials say that they plan to test the programs in up to 12 locations statewide beginning as early as summer 2014.

Implications

Observers say that the programs have the potential to positively affect both rural and urban populations.

According to HealthyCal, community paramedicine initiatives in rural areas are more likely to focus on bringing health care services to underserved populations, while programs in urban areas are more likely to focus on closing health care gaps.

Reaction

Mike Taigman, an EMS expert, said, "That kind of community relationship and geographic coverage along with the clinical training and competence that they have makes paramedics another resource to the rest of the health care system."

Lou Meyer of EMSA said that community paramedics "in no way tak[e] the place of a registered nurse or a doctor."

However, critics of the programs argue that the state lacks proper funding to implement community paramedicine, which would include costs for providing additional education for paramedics and EMS workers and other expenses (Matthews, HealthyCal, 8/28).

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