Community paramedicine has ambulance runs down while paramedic morale is up

By: Miranda Combs / JEMS

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) – Lexington ambulance runs are down two percent since February of this year. Before that, the number of people needing ambulance rides were rising at a record pace.

In 2013, Lexington fire and EMS made 33,500 ambulance runs, and in 2017 they were up to 48,000 ambulance calls. Something needed to change.

There’s a relatively new concept, at least for Kentucky called “community paramedicine.” The idea is for paramedics to visit homes of patients who tend to use the ambulance service often to be taken to the emergency room.

“The old idea of the house calls, it’s coming back around now,” EMS Medical Director Doctor Ryan Stanton explained. “It’s kind of an untapped resource,” he said, speaking of EMTs and paramedics. “It’s a resource that we know can do a lot more than they’ve been asked to do in the past.”

WKYT went with the small paramedicine crew to meet one of their patients. Alice lives in an apartment in Lexington. She has no family and no friends to look out for her. In February, about the same time the community paramedicine pilot program got underway, Alice started calling 911 a lot. She was suffering from dizzy spells, yet the emergency room physicians couldn’t find an issue.

Paramedics, noticing the number of times she was calling for their help, put her on the community paramedicine list. Lt. Patrick Branam and his crew started visiting Alice, and soon found that she had an abnormal heart rhythm that the ER wasn’t catching. Branham took her to the cardiologist.

“So going to the doctor, helping that doctor and helping that doctor understand the pieces of the puzzle, made all the difference in the world for her,” he explained.

Right now, it’s a pilot program. There are several across the state. The Lexington fire department is hoping when the current grant runs out, they will have enough funding to continue.

Watch vide here.

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