ROBBINSDALE, Minn. - An unusual program n the Twin Cities designed to cut healthcare costs and keep patients out of the hospital is getting national attention.
The North Memorial's Community Paramedic Program involves paramedics going to homes when there is not an emergency.
For paramedic Dale Pampuch, it means no rushing around in an ambulance one day a week.
On that day, he's a community paramedic, out on his own, making scheduled visits to help patients avoid a costly trip to the emergency room.
He visits four to six patients during the day. On Tuesday, he was taking vital signs and changing the dressing on Ron Christenson's foot.
"I have a diabetic ulcer," Christenson said. "It's been about eight years now [that it has] really been giving me problems."
North Memorial's Community Paramedic Program uses certified paramedics to provide follow up care, at the request of a physician, for those who find it hard to get to their clinic.
"They're not sick in the ambulance but they will be sick soon so try to get to them ahead of time," Pampuch said.
The aim is to cut costs. In Minnesota, these certified paramedics provide services that are reimbursed through medical assistance. They can administer lab tests and following up on hospital orders.
Christenson needs his dressing changed three times a week.
He said otherwise, "I'd have to go around to different clinics to see the same doctor."
Pampuch likes providing this kind of care.
"It's a good break from the other part of the job, the frantic pace of always having to be doing the 9-1-1 calls," he said.
Christenson said his foot is on the mend.
"I was looking at possible amputation and we tried this and I can't tell you how much it means," he said.
For now, only those within the North Memorial health care system qualify for community paramedic care, but it's an idea that's gaining steam.
There are community paramedic programs in other states.
What makes North Memorial's unique is that Minnesota is the only state to have certified paramedics who get 300 extra hours of training. Then their community paramedic services are paid for by medical assistance.
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