Daily Egyptian

SIU Medicine planning community paramedicine in southern Illinois

By Amelia Blakely

Local health organizations are developing a new community paramedicine program using a $100,000 grant from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy, according to a university press release.

The Center for Rural Health and Social Service Development — which is part of the SIU School of Medicine — and the Good Samaritan Regional Health Center in Mt. Vernon are developing the program to improve paramedic medicine in the region.

Dennis Presley, project coordinator for the Center for Rural Health and Social Service Development, said this will allow paramedics to respond to a wider array of needs.

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Paramedics would continue to respond to emergency calls for trauma and medical needs, and they would also be able to go into communities to monitor health.

This community paramedicine program would be implemented in Clay, Lawrence, Wayne, Jefferson and Crawford counties, the release says.

In these counties, six hospitals, five emergency medical services agencies and three mass transit organizations would be created. These new services will be called the Southern Illinois Collaborative for Innovative Care Coordination network.

According to Presley’s grant proposal, these counties are very rural, with median incomes that are lower than others in the state. The individual county populations range about from 13,800 to 19,800 people.

Presley said paramedicine would provide consistent healthcare to those with chronic diseases, including heart disease, coronary heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

This program would also reduce unnecessary readmissions in hospitals, he said.

“We’re giving them another tool with community paramedicine, which certainly enhances their ability to provide care, as well as gives us healthier patients,” Presley said.

Although the southern Illinois healthcare system is excellent, Presley said, hospitals and health centers are experiencing more financial constraints every day. Along with an aging population hindered with chronic conditions, Presley said it’s tough for people to get the medical care they need.

“It’s an area that has really high risk factors, some highest in the nation as far as chronic condition prevalence,” Presley said.

Presley’s grant proposal says all five counties ranked above the state and national average rate of COPD and diabetes. Four out of the five counties ranked above the state and national rate for hypertension.

“People who are constantly coming back to the hospital cost the health care system a lot of money,” Presley said.

When patients are admitted to hospitals and receive medical care, the hospital is reimbursed through private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid, Presley said. He said if medical care is provided to patients with chronic conditions through paramedicine at their homes instead of the hospital, it will save the hospital money in the end.

After a year of planning for the implementation of the paramedicine program, Presley said he will apply for an implementation grant that will last three years to put the paramedicine services in place.

After three years, Presley said it would be up to the organizations making up the new network to decided whether or not they want to continue funding it, based on the effectiveness and money the programs save.

“Community paramedicine is a model which the federal government is looking at more and more as a mode of health care that is very viable,” Presley said. “What’s interesting about community paramedicine, whether it’s been implemented in very rural areas or very urban areas, it’s been seemingly just as successful.”

Staff writer Amelia Blakely can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @AmeilaBlakely.

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