Longview News-Journal Source Article | Comments courtesy of Matt Zavadsky
Hats off to our Texas neighbors!
Longview starts pilot program to reduce EMS trips for high-volume patients
By Jimmy Daniell Isaac
Nov 7, 2018
Emergency and mental health authorities are building toward a multiagency pilot program aimed at high-volume patients of local ambulance services.
The program currently is unstaffed, but Community HealthCore is seeking grant funding with help from Longview health systems and the fire department’s Emergency Medical Services Division to pay for what is described as a proactive approach to patient care.
The approach involves using in-home assessments to identify the needs of patients with the highest number of ambulance trips to local emergency rooms and other health centers — some who average more than 20 ambulance rides a month.
“We had quite a few of those that use our ambulances quite often,” Longview EMS Section Chief Amy Dodgen said during a meeting Tuesday of the city’s EMS Advisory Board.
The program targets people who call for emergency services with issues that can be served by a number of other agencies besides an ER visit, she said.
EMS personnel will continue responding to 911 calls and transporting patients who need emergency room services, she said, but the goal of the program is to determine if the patient might, instead, need social, mental health or other services for issues not physical in nature. Those issues could be anxiety over where their next meal might come from or how they’ll pay a utility bill, which is why several social service agencies are involved in the program, Dodgen said.
“We really want to solve their problems (and) what they’re needing, not just be a Band-Aid,” she said. “We have awesome people and awesome services in Longview. We’ve just got to connect people to them, and some people need assistance with that.”
The EMS Advisory Board is made up of local hospital officials, health agents and first responders who advise the Longview City Council on matters dealing with EMS responsibilities such as financial and manpower investment priorities.
Advocates hope to hear by the end of the year whether the Fort Worth-based Episcopal Health Foundation awards a grant to the local program — currently called the Gregg County Wellness Collaborative.
Dodgen, a city staff liaison to the board, told members that a 270-page report of patients who used Longview ambulance services at least five times a month last year included one patient who took about 120 ambulance rides in one year.
“That same patient is at 72 (trips) this year for 2018,” she said. “These patients, they’re the driving force behind the community health care medicine program that we’re wanting to start.”
Community health care medicine programs have been tried in other cities and can be tailored to fit the Longview area’s specific needs, Dodgen said. It’s a partnership involving local hospitals and EMS agencies.
“For Longview, the concept would be to take these high utilizers and go into their home with their permission and meet with them and see what we can do to mitigate their issues,” she said.
A pilot program has been initiated with about five of the top ambulance users in Longview, including the highest user, who once averaged between 20 and 30 ambulance calls a month but has since reduced to about 10 times a month, Dodgen said, adding, “Although there were patient contacts with her, we didn’t transport her to the hospital as many times.”
Advocates hope the program develops into a way to help patients who need assistance but do not need an emergency room visit.
“Currently, EMS does not get paid if we don’t transport,” Dodgen said.