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October 2, 2017

Community Paramedic Program Provides Waupaca Patients With Extra Support in Their Homes

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ThedaCare, Gold Cross Ambulance Team Up on Initiative

ThedaCare Physicians-Waupaca and Gold Cross Ambulance teamed up to create the Community Paramedic Program to help patients in their homes be more successful with their recovery, healthcare or chronic condition management.  

A Gold Cross paramedic visits with patients enrolled in the program, who often have complex medical needs, said Laurie Moore, a project coordinator with ThedaCare. Each patient will have his or her own goals. By working with them in their home, the goal may be to decrease the number of emergency department visits, prevent hospitalizations or improve their medical condition. A goal with all patients is that they are more able to manage their own care and navigate the health care system. Additionally, paramedics arrive at homes in a Gold Cross vehicle, rather than an ambulance, to not add patient and neighborhood stress.

“The community paramedic program helps us interact with our patients in their home environment where it can be a more relaxed setting for the patient, leading to a more complete understanding of the clinical picture,” Moore said. “We help with medication concerns especially when patients have many medications, new medications and multiple physicians. Many patients in the program are more successful with their medication management and negative situations have been prevented. Many patients also have been provided with home safety solutions, including removal of hazardous situations.” 

They have also helped connect patients to community resources available to them, such as giving them the assistance they need to make it to appointments or receive referrals for specific care. “All of this work also supports the patient families,” Moore said.

Here’s how the program works: A patient’s primary care physician submits a request to the Community Paramedic program team, which determines if the patient would likely benefit from it. Next, the Community Paramedic from Gold Cross Ambulance calls the patient and sets up a home visit. Afterwards, the Community Paramedic communicates to the primary care physician what happened during the visit and if any changes to the patient’s care plan were made, or are recommended. All visit notes are recorded in the patient’s medical record for referencing by the patients care team. 

The program targets patients who have had three or more emergency room visits within the past six months, or who have had six or more visits within the past year, said Sandra Groenewold, MD, ThedaCare expanded care team physician champion. Patients also served by the program may not qualify for or decline home health care services, but are identified as needing additional services. “We’re choosing to focus on prevention and wellness so it’s a lot of education, answering questions and getting back to the primary care physician with any concerns the patient may have,” she said.

The community paramedic program has seen success in the Fox Cities where it was initially rolled out. For example, paramedics worked with patients who previously went monthly to the emergency room to make changes to their care plan, which led to a decrease in emergency room visits, Dr. Groenewold said.

Moore said primary care physicians like the program since it provides in-home support for patients who may be medically and socially complex. “With only the ability to see patients in a clinical setting, physicians may miss a big piece of the clinical picture that may be noted during a visit in a more relaxed setting,” she said.  

“The program has been life-changing for several patients,” Dr. Groenewold said. “We had a patient who was essentially homebound due to some health issues and he’s now able to go out into the community, and his family members are not afraid to leave him home alone.” 

Funding for Waupaca’s community paramedic program came from a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant, ThedaCare, ThedaCare Foundation-Waupaca and Gold Cross Ambulance.

For more than 100 years, ThedaCare™ has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast Wisconsin. The organization serves over 200,000 patients annually and employs more than 6,800 healthcare professionals throughout the region. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 32 clinics in nine counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.