By: Kristin Hosfeldt, KOB15 / JEMS
Medford, Ore. — A local program aimed at reducing emergency room visits while empowering patients, is seeing great success. Mercy Flights launched it’s Mobile Integrated Healthcare program at the start of 2016. Since then, they’ve seen a significant decrease in emergency visits among patients participating, and now, they’re looking to expand.
“It’s more of a nursing approach, rather than a 9-1-1 emergency approach,” Mobile Integrated Provider and Community Paramedic, Kalah Hilliker says.
Kalah Hilliker is no stranger to healthcare, she’s been working on an ambulance for nearly a decade.
“It’s a little bit frustrating seeing the same patients over and over again and not being able to help them in the way that they need to be helped,” Hilliker says.
But the Mobile Integrated Healthcare program at Mercy Flights is changing that.
“In this program, I’m actually able to research resources, and help them, and get them the care that they need,” Hilliker says, “so they aren’t having to go to the ER for every little thing.”
“It’s a really cool feeling,” she adds.
While crews are equipped with many of the same tools they’d have on an ambulance, there’s no emergency when they come to visit. Instead patients are usually referred to the program by the hospital they frequently go to, and paramedics set up a house call.
“A typical first time visit is a couple hours,” Mobile Integrated Healthcare manager, Leslie Terrell says, adding the program allows them to look at the whole picture.
“We really take the time to find out what’s going on with them, get to know them, find out what they need, and connect them with those services,” he says.
“People don’t have a way to get there, they don’t have their own car, they don’t have family to help them get there, and they don’t know what’s provided by their insurance company,” Hilliker says of the most common barriers people face, “Jackson Care Connect has a free service for their clients where they can take a free taxi cab over there and they’ll pay for that.”
Since it’s start they’ve connected with more than a hundred patients who together, had been in the ER almost a thousand times in a year.
“We were able to reduce their ED usage by 56% over the year prior to us engaging with them,” Terrell says.
Now, they’re hoping more agencies will come aboard.
“We’re really looking to partner with other partners in the community, other insurance providers,” Terrell explains, “we’re in discussion with AllCare who is the other CCO in Jackson County and we’re looking forward to working with them and their clients too.”
On average, an ER visit costs about $1,300 dollars. The decrease in visits from the first year of this program alone saved about a half a million dollars.