Proposed Pilot Program Seeks To Expand Role of Calif. Paramedics
The Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development is expected to decide soon whether to approve the program ("KXJZ News," Capital Public Radio, 7/30).
Under California law, paramedics are only allowed to provide emergency care. They also are required to take patients to an emergency department.
However, OSHPD allows groups to test and evaluate expanded scopes of practice for health care providers or new care delivery methods before such changes are enacted by the state Legislature.
Details of Pilot Program
The pilot program is a form of "community paramedicine," in which paramedics function as a type of primary care provider.
Community paramedicine programs aim to address several issues, such as:
- A lack of alternative methods of disease management for patients whose conditions do not necessitate a trip to the emergency department;
- Low physician capacity for short-notice home visits;
- Overuse or misuse of the 911 system;
- Primary care shortages in underserved communities; and
- Repetitive hospital or ED admissions because of gaps in inpatient and outpatient primary care (Emergency Medical Services Authority website, 7/31).
Under the proposed program, California paramedics would be able to:
- Make non-emergency visits for medical care or advice; and
- Transport patients with minor injuries or substance misuse issues to urgent care clinics, rather than EDs ("KXJZ News," Capital Public Radio, 7/30).
Twelve pilot sites for the program already have been selected and will be monitored through data collection requirements, protocols and standardized training. The sites are pending final approval from OSHPD (EMSA website, 7/31).
Howard Backer, with EMSA, said the state's paramedics "are very adept at evaluating and assessing patients' conditions and intervening with highly skilled interventions and medications when need."
However, critics of the planned program said physicians, nurses and other medical professionals should have a larger oversight role when it comes to paramedics administering primary care ("KXJZ News," Capital Public Radio, 7/30).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.