Research Program Sends Paramedics on Regular Visits With the Elderly
A paramedic-led program in Hamilton is reducing calls to 9-1-1 by sending paramedics to seniors before they even get a chance to call, according to a study published this week in the Canadian Medical Association journal.
Customarily, paramedics respond only to emergencies. This program changes that.
“Paramedics hold drop-in sessions at select subsidized housing buildings with high numbers of 911 calls,” the research program information on the McMaster University website reads. “At these sessions, they help assess building residents’ risks of high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and falls. At the same time, the paramedics are also providing information on topics like healthy eating, physical activity, and quitting smoking.”
The research program, called Community Paramedicine at Clinic, is not only being tried in Hamilton; it’s also in trial in Guelph-Wellington County, York Region, Greater Sudbury, and County of Simcoe.
“Community paramedicine is a new field in which paramedics provide health care outside of traditional emergency response,” the study abstract reads. The study concluded that the program reduced 9-1-1 calls from 4 in 100 apartments a month to 3.11.
“And we think why that has happened is we are targeting the population before they get to make that 9-1-1 call,” said the study’s author, Dr. Gina Agerwal, in an interview with CBC.
Besides reducing calls to 9-1-1, the study reports that secondary outcomes of the program were individual-level changes in blood pressure, health behaviours, and risk of diabetes.
Agerwal says that some doctors weren’t sure about the new program, as the approach is a change from the status quo.
Dr. Joshua Tepper, an Emergency room doctor, told CBC, “I think we should worry less about creating turf and silos saying only this type of provider can do this, only physicians can do this, only nurses can do this and saying ‘what are the skills and knowledge that we have that can safely deliver care and how do we work as a team?'”
Changes to team structure in delivering care to seniors are happening in Nova Scotia too, which is likewise changing the way they use paramedics. In their case, paramedics are sent out to emergencies and they decide themselves how to handle each emergency case, involving nurses or doctors as needed.
“It turns out about 70 percent of the time that an extended care paramedic actually treats the patient on scene, doesn’t transport them to the emergency department, and actually keeps the senior comfortable and safe at home,” said Dr. Andrew Travers, the provincial medical director for Emergency Health Services in Nova Scotia.
“There is a lot of demand on our emergency room. Our front line teams work very hard in the emergency room and to be able to triage what comes in more effectively is a benefit to everybody.”