DEADWOOD, S.D. – Regional Health Lead-Deadwood Hospital has launched a new pilot project, called the Lead-Deadwood Community Paramedicine Program, which expands the role of paramedics to help medically vulnerable patients stay at home and out of the hospital.
If a patient being discharged from the hospital doesn’t have support and assistance at home, they can end up back in the hospital. In fact, some rural patients use 911 and emergency medical services (EMS) to receive non-emergency health care.
Thomas Groeger, M.D., Family Medicine Physician at Lead-Deadwood, said community paramedicine is well-suited for rural areas. When discharging a patient from the Emergency Department or the hospital, the physician doesn't always have a clear picture of the living situation the patient will encounter at home.
"Ideally, medicine should be preventive -- not reactionary," Dr Groeger said. "Community paramedicine can help prevent future health problems."
When a patient is deemed a good fit for the program, a specially trained paramedic goes to the patient’s home after discharge from the hospital. The paramedic can take the patient's vital signs, go through medications, draw blood and perform other services. The paramedic also evaluates whether prescriptions are correct and whether additional resources are needed. It could be handrails in the bathroom, a more accessible phone, home health care service or reliable transportation. Then the paramedic puts the patient in touch with NeighborWorks, Home+ Home Health and other agencies that can help. The paramedic report is also helpful for the patient’s doctor.
“Regional Health’s Community Paramedicine Program is intended to provide a clear picture to primary care providers of their patient’s life at home," said Roy Goben, Operations Manager for the Lead-Deadwood Hospital Ambulance Service. The program is designed to fill the gap in the quality care after discharge from the hospital.
Lead-Deadwood Hospital received special permission from the State of South Dakota to launch the Community Paramedicine Program because state law limits the role of paramedics to emergency life support. Eventually, Goben said, community paramedicine services could be offered by rural hospitals throughout South Dakota.
Regional Health is an integrated health care system with a mission to make a difference in the lives of our patients and communities every day. The organization, headquartered in Rapid City, provides community-based health care covering 32 specialty areas of medicine in more than 20 communities in two states. Regional Health is comprised of five hospitals, 25 clinics and almost 5,000 physicians and caregivers. Regional Health hospitals in Rapid City, Spearfish and Sturgis have been rated as four-star hospitals by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. For more information, visit regionalhealth.org.
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