Community Paramedicine Offers Benefits Beyond Saving Money
As a result of the Affordable Care Act which established Medicare reimbursement penalties for hospitals whose heart patients were readmitted within 30 days of treatment, hospitals now have the incentive to take part in Mobile Healthcare programs that aim to keep patients informed about self care, ultimately keeping them out of the ER. However, even with an awareness of the financial benefits of avoiding these penalties, the process of forming contracts between hospitals and Mobile Healthcare programs is one that is arduously slow, deterring many novel EMS business models from launching. Accordingly, when Dallas became the largest city so far to start a Mobile Healthcare program last year with the hope to become self-sufficient by using fees from hospitals that want to alleviate their ER burden, the expectation was never that it would bring in big revenue only a year into commission.
Yet just last month, Tristan Hallman published an article in EMS1 titled “Revenue Below Expectations for Dallas Community Paramedic Program,”
which criticized the Dallas’ Fire-Rescue Mobile Community Healthcare program for “not making much money for the city.” Hallman presented records obtained by the The Dallas Morning News which reveal that Dallas’ Mobile Community Healthcare program has yet to reimburse over 70% of the money the city invoiced during its first six months, and also stated that only two hospitals have deals with the program: Southwestern Medical Center and Children’s Medical Center Dallas.
In response to Hallman’s article, Catherine Counts wrote an article of her own titled “Community Paramedicine Isn’t a Fire Department Cash Machine,” which explained that success for community paramedicine programs needs to be measured “beyond the single outcome of saving money.” The goal of many community paramedicine programs is to integrate more fully into the surrounding healthcare industry rather than simply saving money. Therefore, it is arguable that the non-monetary benefits of this paramedicine program might actually hold greater value than that of saving money.For example, Counts lists lower call volume, fewer ED visits, and better patient satisfaction as a few of these non-monetary outcomes. Moreover, Counts proposes steps to those that may be thinking about starting a community paramedicine program in their area and emphasized the importance of being honest and open about expectations. To quote Assistant Chief Norman Seals, “it will always be about the patients we’re working with.” Saving money was never the be all and end all of Dallas’ Fire-Rescue Mobile Community Healthcare program, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t brought much greater benefit to the health of the Dallas community.
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