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May 4, 2017

ThedaCare Community Paramedics Improve Health Access

A $107,000 grant from the ThedaCare Family of Foundations through Appleton, Neenah and Waupaca will allow an expansion of the new ThedaCare community paramedic program, launched in January

ThedaCare Foundation Grant Allows Growth of Preventive In-Home Visit Program with Gold Cross Partnership

A $107,000 grant from the ThedaCare Family of Foundations through Appleton, Neenah and Waupaca will allow an expansion of the new ThedaCare community paramedic program, launched in January.

Under the initiative, a Gold Cross Ambulance community paramedic conducts home visits for patients who either have been hospitalized at ThedaCare or have been recommended for follow-up visits by their physician. Community paramedics provide services such as safety assessments, checking vitals such as blood pressure, and assisting patients who are starting new medications. They can also perform simple wound care like changing dressings.

“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,” said Sandra Groenewold, MD, ThedaCare expanded care team physician champion.

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, Dr. Groenewold said. Patients also served by the program do not qualify for or decline home health care services but are identified as needing additional services.

Reasons for needing additional help can be numerous and impacted by the complexity of a patient’s health issues, including having to manage several medications and doctor’s visits, transportation issues, or past trauma that impacts how a patient interacts with the medical community, Dr. Groenewold said.

The goal is to decrease the number of unnecessary Emergency Department visits and improve preventive care to reduce the amount of hospitalizations. Additionally, paramedics arrive at homes in a Gold Cross Suburban, rather than an ambulance, to reduce neighborhood stress.

“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.”

In 2016, ThedaCare was one of six organizations selected to participate in a national initiative called Transforming Complex Care (TCC), funded by a two-year grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and led by the Center for Health Care Strategies (CHCS). That initiative allowed a complex care team to create a community advisory board to address the issues that prevent patients from reaching optimal health goals, to create a sustainable community health plan, and to develop the community paramedic program, Dr.Groenewold said.

The community paramedic program has now expanded from one part-time community paramedic to a full-time paramedic, with a second full-time community paramedic to be added in July. The program hopes to serve 100 patients by September.

“It’s patient-centered, so it’s really focusing on their goals, what they want to improve in their health and what they feel would improve their quality of life,” Dr. Groenewold said. “It really engages the patients in managing their own care, so we’re trying to help them to be more independent.”

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 and the ThedaCare Regional Cancer Center in Appleton. 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.  For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.