Community Paramedicine Models for Post-Discharge Follow-Up Care
The first few weeks after being discharged from the hospital can be difficult for many patients as they
transition back home. Hospital readmissions due to complications or adverse drug events can
hamper patients' recovery and are costly to the healthcare system.
Research has found that early follow-up is a key
intervention to reduce avoidable readmissions and help patients get comfortable with their new health
routines. As a result, protocols generally call for an initial contact with the
patient no more than 72 hours after their discharge.
Local home health agencies are often the traditional community providers for post-discharge follow-up. However,
if they are not able to see a patient within their first few days at home, community paramedics can fill
the gap by conducting early visits for patients who are waiting for a home health appointment or may be
ineligible for home health services because of their insurance status.
A community paramedic's responsibilities during a post-discharge visit may include reviewing next steps and
discharge instructions, discussing and planning for lifestyle changes, educating patients on how to manage new
medications, and ensuring people have appropriate temporary or permanent physical accommodations and medical
equipment to support their recovery.
Evaluation data suggest that community paramedicine programs have a significant impact on readmission rates. A
study in New Jersey found heart failure patients without a visit from the mobile integrated health team
were 30.3% likely to be readmitted within 30 days. Another pilot
program in urban Oregon found a readmission rate of 6.3% for program participants, compared to 23.5% of
patients who did not participate.
Examples of Post-Discharge Follow-Up Care by Rural Community Paramedicine Programs
Considerations for Implementation
For communities just beginning to implement a community paramedicine program, post-discharge follow-up can be a
good starting point. This model offers opportunities to build partnerships with local hospitals and home health
agencies, which can later be expanded to accommodate new lines of work. People living in rural communities also
often have a higher burden of chronic disease and may
benefit from post-discharge follow-up, including for heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
(COPD), pneumonia, and diabetes.
A focus on reducing readmissions may be a particularly good fit for emergency medical services (EMS) operated by
hospitals that could be financially penalized for higher-than-average readmission rates. The Hospital
Readmissions Reduction Program is a Medicare value-based purchasing program that cuts reimbursement for
some hospitals based on their rates of avoidable readmission for patients with six conditions including heart
failure, coronary artery bypass graft surgery, and hip and knee replacements. Therefore, implementing a
community paramedicine program may be a good investment for the hospital system. Critical Access Hospitals are
exempt from these penalties but may be
incentivized to reduce readmissions through the Medicare
Beneficiary Quality Improvement Project.
Program Clearinghouse Examples
Resources to Learn More
Community Paramedic Pilot Program: Congestive
Presents an interview with a community paramedic from the Glendale Fire Department discussing the
elements of its program, which targets post-discharge patients with congestive heart failure.
Paramedics conduct vital signs screening and provide education on disease management. The program was
a pilot project of the California Emergency Medical Services Authority.
Organization(s): Glendale Fire Department (California)
Heart Failure Readmission Prevention Program
Describes a readmission prevention program developed specifically to support patients with congestive
heart failure. Discusses the enrollment process, core program components, coordinating the patient
care with other providers, and results of the program evaluation.
Organization(s): MedStar Mobile Healthcare
of Evaluation of California's Community Paramedicine Pilot Program
Summarizes the findings from the California Community Paramedicine Pilot Program with a focus on
post-discharge, frequent users of emergency medical services, direct therapy, transportation to
alternate destinations, and treating hospice patients. Includes information about how each
intervention was structured, each site's readmission rates before and after the program, services
provided by the paramedics, and the estimated potential savings to payers.
Author(s): Coffman, J., Blash, L., & Amah, G.
Organization(s): Healthforce Center, University of California, San Francisco