Roles of Community Paramedicine in Rural Healthcare Systems
Community paramedicine programs are not designed to provide standalone healthcare services. Instead, they serve
in expanded roles and fill gaps in access to healthcare in rural communities by working closely with other
providers, services, and organizations in the community. These roles can include:
Coordinating with non-emergency healthcare facilities. Community paramedics are trained to
provide some services in the location in which they meet the patient. However, in some cases, additional
non-emergent care, like time under observation for drug or alcohol detox, may be needed. The Institute for
Population Health Improvement at the University of California, Davis reports that in communities where
non-emergency healthcare services are available, community paramedics can coordinate with or provide
service facilities including primary care, urgent care, mental healthcare, and substance use disorder
treatment. In this way, community paramedics can support access to care in locations other than an emergency
Transporting patients directly to alternate locations. In some cases, individuals who are
experiencing a mental health crisis and request emergency services would benefit most if they received care
directly from a behavioral health facility. However, when these patients call emergency medical services (EMS),
they are often transported to an emergency department and
transferred to a behavioral health center, the California Health Foundation reports. This type of
transportation adds to increased emergency department (ED) wait times and delays the patient from receiving the
care they truly need. Transport to an ED can also cause additional disruption or anxiety for the person in
crisis. In these cases, community paramedics can assess the patient and transport them directly to a behavioral
health facility, if no emergency medical services are needed. In addition to transporting patients to alternate
locations, community paramedicine programs may also work with the local authority that coordinates
medical transportation (NEMT) to ensure patients have reliable transportation to medical appointments.
Providing medication management. People living with multiple chronic conditions or other
serious health issues may receive multiple prescriptions. These medications can be difficult to manage, but in
order to achieve the best health outcomes, they must be taken as prescribed: on time, with or without food, and
timed appropriately with other medicines. Community paramedicine programs can team up with local pharmacists to
conduct home visits to review medication lists or monitor conditions like hypertension.
Resources to Learn More
Paramedicine: A New Approach to Serving Complex Populations
Outlines the specific roles of community paramedics and describes two community paramedic programs that focus on
high-needs populations in Wisconsin and Massachusetts.
Organization(s): Center for Health Care Strategies, Inc.