90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Here and Now with Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Tuesday, June 17, 2014

More EMTs Doing House Calls, Not Just ER Transport

An unidentified woman is wheeled into a hospital by members of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corps (BSVAC) on June 21, 2013 in the Brooklyn borough New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

An unidentified woman is wheeled into a hospital by members of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corps (BSVAC) on June 21, 2013 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

It’s being called the house call of the future: ambulance crews who rush when you call 9-1-1, but instead of taking you to the emergency room, they treat you at home.

Community paramedicine, as it’s called, is a growing trend across the country. It’s aim is to bring down hospital costs, but there are concerns about who’s going to end up paying for the service.

David Kimbrell, the fire chief in Hall County, Georgia, and Scot Phelps, a former paramedic and a professor of disaster science, speak with Here & Now’s Robin Young.

Interview Highlights

David Kimbrell on the advantages of community paramedicine

“They’re able to do blood withdrawals and do some analytical tests on the scene. They have a centrifuge. They can spin down blood to do various blood tests on the scene. None of those things are done by paramedics on the scene. So if you think about healthcare, we’re basically going back to the old house calls by the doctor.”

David Kimbrell on funding the new service

“We were seeing more and more people calling 911 and our medics were treating them on the scene, and then we were not getting reimbursed for that because a paramedic has to transport in order to be reimbursed by insurance and Medicare and Medicaid. So we were able to utilize a nurse practitioner. So the nurse practitioner and the paramedic teams up as the mobile care team. Then, if they go out and treat a patient, it is reimbursable through the nurse practitioner’s license.”

Scot Phelps on a previous attempt at community paramedicine

“We tried this in 1995 in Red River, New Mexico and what we found after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars was that it didn’t actually save any money or improve any care. So they abandoned it and now eight years later its the topic du jour.”

Scot Phelps on paramedics’ responses to the service

“I don’t think paramedics are really anxious about being replaced because all the data shows that all the ambulance calls across the country, and in fact, across the world, are increasing increasing at about 5 percent a year. The problem is that very few communities have sufficient numbers of paramedics. There is extraordinarily high turnover. That was one of the key conclusions of the 1995 Red River project was that with the high turnover the training costs add up kind of quickly.”

Guests

  • David Kimbrell, fire chief and director of emergency management in Hall County, Georgia.
  • Scot Phelps, former paramedic and professor of disaster science at the Emergency Management Academy. He tweets @emergencymgmt.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Spotlight

We now have a digital bookshelf! Explore all our books coverage or browse by genre.

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

January 29 Comment

DJ Sessions: Go Deadhead

The Grateful Dead celebrates 50 years since the band's start this year.

January 29 15 Comments

Middle-Aged And Living Alone

"There might be an initial honeymoon period, but what does living alone eventually do to you?" Sandra Tsing Loh asks.

January 28 16 Comments

Zillow And ‘The New Rules Of Real Estate’

The CEO and chief economist of the groundbreaking real estate website explain how the rules have changed.

January 27 124 Comments

Nun Hopes For More Gender Equality In The Church

Sister Joan Chittister describes how the Vatican's tone toward nuns has changed and shares her hopes for the Catholic church.