MMC and Ashland Paramedics Collaborate on Community Health Initiative

From left – right: Chief Wayne Chenier, Ashland Fire Department; Jenna Singler, Care Transition Manager; Jeanne Grill, Nurse Manager; Krystle Karlinsky, Social Worker; Lieutenant Stuart Matthias, Ashland Fire Department; Erika Kurtz, EMS Coordinator; Lieutenant Joe Belany, Ashland Fire Department; and Kathy Tuttle, Director of Nursing.

Memorial Medical Center (MMC) is excited to announce an innovative partnership with the Ashland Fire Department (which also provides Emergency Medical Services) to expand services for some of our community’s most vulnerable population. The Community Paramedicine program, also referred to as Mobile Integrated Health, fills a patient gap between hospital discharge and being successful at home.

“The goal of this program is to improve outcomes for patients who might otherwise get readmitted to the hospital,” says MMC CEO Jason Douglas. “We will start by focusing on patients we have identified as having a high risk of complications at home and limited support. Our goal is to not duplicate or compete with home health care but rather fill a gap we’ve identified through our research.”

According to MMC social worker Krystle Karlinsky, a number of community members could benefit from having additional home health support following a stay within the patient care unit or the hospital’s emergency room but are not found to be home bound. This means they generally do not qualify to have home health visits or additional supports without having to pay out of pocket. Often times, these patients are readmitted to the hospital due to complications around understanding or accessing medication or inability to complete at-home care plans.

This problem is not uncommon in rural communities throughout the United States. One solution that’s being brought forward around this program is a partnership with paramedics to provide some of these services to the home. Some of the most common patients seen in other communities around the country include patients with congestive heart failure and pneumonia, or who are seeking wound care or recently suffered from a heart attack.

“By relying on our partnership with regional paramedics and EMS providers, we hope to strengthen our ability to improve the overall health of our patients after discharge,” says Douglas. “This program is just one example of how we are utilizing collaboration and innovation to ensure our patients receive the best care possible, right here.”

In Ashland, Lieutenants Joe Belany and Stuart Matthias spent the past year completing over 300-hours of training in the Community Paramedic program through Hennepin Technical College. The program was paid for through a grant MMC received from the Wisconsin Office of Rural Health.

Belany says the program provided 114 hours of classroom work that was completed online with students around the country and an additional 196 clinical hours working with a community paramedicine program at North Memorial Hospital and Hennepin County Medical Center in the Twin Cities. This real-life experience allowed him and Matthias to see how the program not only helps people but saves money as well.

Belany and Matthias will work with MMC’s transitions of care team to identify patients within the Ashland Paramedic service area that are at-risk and do not qualify for at-home services. They will then meet with the patient within 48-hours of discharge to provide a variety of services that could include: medication review, home assessment, care plan review and identifying any other services the patient may need. They will then report that information back to the hospital.

Right now, this program relies on paramedics completing the training. But, recent legislation passed in 2017 under Act 66 extends to community EMS who complete the appropriate training. MMC hopes to expand the program beyond Ashland as additional EMS receive the appropriate training and want to contract with MMC.

In the meantime, the program will be a contract between MMC and the City of Ashland. While there is currently no reimbursement for this type of treatment at home, MMC will be assisting with the costs associated with the program as part of their commitment to improving the overall health of this region.