A Catalyst for Change in EMS: The Mobile Healthcare Program
By Allison G. S. Knox, M.A., EMT-B, faculty member at American Military University
Many professionals believe the emergency medical services (EMS) industry has hit an impasse with industry-wide budget cuts, falling wages, and staffing cuts. However, during this difficult time, a new paradigm has emerged: the mobile care program concept.
The Rise of the Mobile Healthcare Program
The mobile healthcare program allows for ambulances to be proactive by visiting members of the community who need medical care before a situation becomes an emergency. For example, the Baxter Regional Medical Center in Arkansas has a community paramedic mobile healthcare program in place that brings “preventative healthcare to an underserved and at-risk population of patients.”
This program serves a variety of patient-care needs including in-home patient assessments, blood draws for lab results, in-home fall assessments, and chronic illness management. All of this is done within the comfort of a patient’s home.
The concept of the mobile healthcare program makes sense considering the majority of 911 calls are individuals in need of medical assistance, not individuals experiencing an actual medical emergency. Dispatching a mobile care unit to respond to requests for assistance frees up ambulances to deal with life-threatening emergencies.
Mobile healthcare programs can help reduce the overall costs of providing medical services. For example, it is believed that the mobile care unit lowers emergency room visits and the associated costs by providing better care on site rather than needing to transport people to the hospital. It can also reduce the number of staff needed to staff an ambulance service.
While the mobile healthcare program has the potential to be an effective way of delivering medical assistance at a lower cost to the jurisdiction, it is imperative that sound managerial systems are in place.
Effective Management Practices
For the program to be effective, it is essential that there are management systems in place to handle both non-emergency and emergency calls simultaneously. Without systems in place to handle this new program, the mobile healthcare program may prove to complicate how local jurisdictions handle medical and traumatic emergencies. Administrators need to develop a plan for instituting the program into the existing 911 system. In addition, administrators will also need to regularly evaluate the program through qualitative means and make adjustments to policies and actions to improve the overall system.
The concept of the mobile healthcare program could certainly be the catalyst for change that the EMS industry needs, but, like anything new, it must be carefully implemented, managed, and adjusted to ensure it is effective.
About the Author: Allison G. S. Knox is a faculty member at American Military University. Allison’s research interests are comprised of federalism, pluralism, emergency management policy and security issues. Allison is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society (for the social sciences) serving as Chancellor of the Southeast Region. She is also the Chapter Sponsor and faculty adviser of the AMU/APU West Virginia Iota Chapter of Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society. Allison holds Master’s degrees in International Relations, History, and Emergency Management, and is also a certified Emergency Medical Technician. Prior to teaching, she worked in Washington, D.C. for a member of Congress and also worked in a level one trauma center. She is currently working on her doctorate at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in Public Administration and Policy.
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