Community Paramedic Programs Can Ease the Burden of Answering Non-Emergency 911 Calls
By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest
For years, public safety agencies, particularly emergency medical services, have pondered how to handle non-emergency 911 calls. Responding to these calls is costly for resource management and affects the ability of first responders to handle real 911 emergency calls.
Staffing shortages have also created community healthcare problems. For example,
The issues that AMR is currently experiencing point to a more troubling concern, one that emergency medical services as a whole have experienced in the past few years. Staffing shortages coupled with budgetary problems are having a negative effect on first responders’ ability to effectively respond to emergency 911 calls. Without the appropriate infrastructure measures in place, ambulance agencies have difficulty effectively supporting a community paramedic program.
According to an analysis in the Journal of Emergency Management Services (JEMS), numerous ambulance agencies said part of the problem stemmed from individuals using the 911 emergency service for the wrong reason. Some people use an ambulance as a taxi service, so they can be taken to a hospital emergency room for routine healthcare needs.
When that misuse occurs, ambulance agencies don’t always have enough vehicles to handle real emergencies. This is a widespread problem throughout the United States.
Birth of the Community Paramedic Program
The community paramedic program was created to provide better resource management in emergency situations by redirecting resources in such a way that ambulance companies can focus on true emergencies while managing non-emergency calls at the same time.
According to the program, an ambulance service will regularly visit non-emergency callers and treat them in their homes, so these patients do not have to be transported to a hospital unless there is a true emergency. This frees ambulance crews to prepare for and handle actual 911 emergencies. This program is innovative because it meets the needs of emergency departments, ambulance agencies and patients at the same time.
Success of the Community Paramedic Program
In many areas, the community paramedic program has had tremendous success. According to NBC News, San Diego experienced a 72% drop in usage by frequent non-emergency 911 callers. This is good news for resource management.
Resource Management for Community Paramedic Programs
Managing a program such as the community paramedic program can be complicated, especially when budgetary needs for emergency medical services are tight. Ambulance agencies must contemplate whether they actually have the administration to support such a program, even as the local government works to ensure there are the appropriate resources to support it.
This approach might seem to be common sense, but it can be difficult to effectively judge the needs of such a program until it is implemented. More importantly, once such a program is implemented, the needs of the community shift drastically toward reliance on it. If the program were to fail or be discontinued, it would create a wave of new problems for the affected area’s healthcare needs.
EMS agencies must work to restructure how they will handle their 911 calls and the community paramedic program. There must be an ample budget and appropriate staff.
Unfortunately, agencies that don’t have the infrastructure to support a community paramedic program could see it go belly up. A failure could have devastating consequences to a community.
It is important for local government officials to work diligently with EMS agencies. Only then can emergency services ensure that they have the budget and resources they need to effectively serve a community’s healthcare needs.