Did you know that Austin-Travis County EMS (ATCEMS) has had a Community Health Paramedic Program (CHP) for over 10 years? In 2006, ATCEMS recognized there was a need to develop new ways to serve individuals who call 911 for non-emergent problems or conditions that could be better addressed by other services. Services such as their primary care doctor, a mental health professional or urgent care.
That same year the department began investigating ways to work collaboratively with representatives from the hospitals, clinics, mental health agencies and law enforcement. The idea was to assess and develop new ways of providing more individualized and intensive services to reduce the individual’s reliance on the 911 emergency system. This led to the development of many partnerships with various agencies in the community that typically had not partnered with EMS to deliver service. Streamlining communication and collaboration between these agencies was crucial to providing the patient the right care, at the right time, from the right provider. This work would be the birth of what today is ATCEMS’s CHP Program.
Today, the CHP Program has evolved to a team of nine providers and one Commander who work independently to address health related needs and problems of the community. Needs such as taking care of non-emergent medical problems, getting patients set up with a primary care doctor or referring them to mental health services. CHP team members can often be found working with a variety of health care and social service providers such as social workers, doctors, nurse practitioners, police officers and case managers providing medical care and assisting patients navigating the health care system.
The overall goal of the CHP is to connect the individual to education and resources needed to prevent the Emergency Room (ER) from being a primary care provider and reduce admissions. CHP along with services such as Community Care, Integral Care, Central Health and many other organizations work collaboratively to remove barriers to health care.
For a CHP Program medic every day is different. CHP team members meet with individuals wherever they may be, at home, on the streets, at shelters and while incarcerated. While working with the individual, CHP medics assess their physical and mental health, identify essential medical needs and develop a patient care plan focused on addressing the needs of the whole person and getting them the appropriate care.
While carrying out the patient care plan that has been developed, the CHP medic monitors the health of the patient, relaying information to other medical professionals and alerting them to issues that may need to be addressed before they become emergencies, such as a significant change in their physical or mental health. By assuming this role in the community, CHP medics often serve as the “eyes and ears” for other health care providers that also want to keep the patient healthy.
Moving forward, the goal is to utilize CHP medics to address non-emergent needs for individuals that call 911 because they have no other place to turn for medical care. We are also partnering with clinics, hospitals and other resources to develop ways to prevent hospital readmissions and ensure the patient is receiving the most appropriate care.
CHP has recently began a mobile health resource hub called Pop-Up Resource Clinics (PURCs-pronounced perks). Historical information can be gathered though the 911 system to map out geographical locations where PURCs would have the greatest benefit. Once locations have been identified the CHP team is able to schedule a PURC in those areas. The PURCs allow all agencies to be in one location and the CHP team is able to direct individuals to resources such a full medical exam, prescription access, mental health care and to the county Medical Access Program (MAP).
CHP medics are well positioned to become the next generation of paramedics and EMT’s that respond to 911 calls, determine the most appropriate care and get them connected with that resource. These resources may not be hospital emergency departments, instead they may be urgent care centers, clinics and telemedicine.