By Jeff Guy
Newton Kansan – July 3, 2015
The Newton Fire/EMS dept. is starting to approach medical emergency calls the way it does fires – by preventing them before they start.
Deputy Newton Fire/EMS Chief Scott Metzler and a few paramedics from the department have been working with health care professionals and agencies to start a preventive program. Under this model, EMS workers would connect people at risk for medical emergencies with resources that can prevent incidents from occurring.
It is an aspect of what is called “community paramedicine” and it is a “growing trend in the EMS world.” Metzler said.
“The community paramedicine model is to intervene before an emergency takes place,” he said.
Individual communities will have their own specific areas to focus on with regard to emergency care, Metzler said. In Newton, data shows 911 emergency medical calls are increasing annually and the most common are elderly people falling.
“It’s a normal function of a growing and aging community,” Metzler said.
• Metzler shared some alarming national facts about those who fall:
• One-third of Americans 65 and over fall each year.
• Two-thirds of those who fall will fall again within six months.
• One in four seniors who fracture a hip will die within six months.
Most seniors who survive a fall will never regain the level of independence they had before the fall.
“We need to look at fall awareness and fall prevention in this community,” said Val Gleason, chief clinical integration officer at Newton Medical Center and a member of the committee working to bring paramedicine to the community.
Metzler said local data is also telling the department that while emergency calls are increasing, Medicare and private insurance reimbursement is on the decline.
“So as calls for services go up and reimbursement’s going down, we’ve sort of created this unsustainable model,” Metzler said.
The department is looking to respond responsibly to that trend, he said. Metzler and paramedics from fire/EMS are working with local health care professionals and agencies to initiate a community paramedicine program.
Together less than a year, the committee is only in its “formative stage,” Gleason said.
Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Charles Craig, chief medical officer for Newton Medical Center, is also on the committee. He will bring models from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons “Fall Awareness and Prevention Guide” to use in Newton’s paramedicine program, Gleason said.
“We’re not pulling techniques out of thin air, we’re not re-inventing the wheel,” Gleason said. “We’re basing it on best evidence and a model we know is already working in other communities.”
Committee members will have to put their heads together, write a grant proposal and find foundations that give money to causes like paramedicine, Gleason said.
Metzler said, “We don’t want to duplicate services already available but we do want to be part of the solution.”
Gleason said success in fall prevention could lead to local paramedicine expanding into other health care areas with high mortality rates.
For now, however, the committee has to get beyond the initial stages of implementing ways to prevent falls.
“If we treat falls like we treat fire prevention, we can intervene before a fall happens,” Metzler said. “That’s going to create quality of life benefits for our citizens we don’t even know how to measure.”