Chicago, October 11 -- A team of Chicago Fire Department Community Paramedics are piloting an innovative home visiting program focused on transforming care for patients who have chronic conditions or need extra help managing their health at home. The MHN Paramedic Partnership, a pilot program funded by Medical Home Network (MHN), connects Chicago Fire Department Community Paramedics with patients who live on the South Side to bring preventive care to those with the greatest medical need and build healthier communities.
The first cohort of 12 community paramedics is making non-emergency field clinical assessments on South Side patients of Chicago Family Health Center, Friend Health and Sinai Medical Group.
"Community paramedics engage patients in their homes and focus on addressing barriers to their healthcare including social determinants of health, education on chronic conditions and navigating the healthcare system to optimize their health,” said Dr. Katie Tataris, University of Chicago EMS medical director and Chicago Fire Department Mobile Integrated Healthcare (MIH) medical director.
Paramedics Take Wellness Checks to Deeper Level
In addition to their regular training as community paramedics, MHN provides training that helps improve their understanding of how community health centers manage cases and coordinate care.
Paramedics put their training to work in field clinical assessments in under-resourced South Side neighborhoods. They follow up with patients after transitions of care such as a transport to an emergency department or following discharge from a hospital stay back to home. Connecting with a patient’s medical home is central to the program, so paramedics have an opportunity to provide an update to the primary care physician – especially for the those who have not seen a doctor or have chronic conditions.
“Paramedics are the ‘eyes and ears’ of the community and are skilled at assessing patient health and needs,” said Tina Spector, MHN vice president for clinical integration and innovation. “They can do a medical check and identify what is troubling the patient, whether it’s a broken wheelchair, medication side effects or identifying another social determinant of health. The MHN Paramedic Partnership will swiftly connect patients with their care managers and primary care physicians to address any issues.”
During the pilot program, community paramedics will check on high-risk patients up to four times. They size up potential home health and safety hazards, answer patient questions about their conditions and treatments, check the medicines they currently take and help them follow treatment plans. In addition, they are in a unique position to assess if a patient has social determinants such as food insecurity or transportation issues that are impacting physical health.
Community Health Centers Extend Reach of Safety Net
MHN technology helps paramedics collaborate and connect with the community health centers. The secure MHNConnect care management platform gives them patient information, including access to the MHN Baseball Card summary of ED visits, inpatient stays and a care management plan. Paramedics use MHN’s Community Connect software to confer with care teams at the primary care clinics. Care managers schedule medical appointments and reach out to providers who can address social determinants of health.
“Community paramedics assist individuals in overcoming healthcare barriers by identifying and mitigating gaps in their health and wellness needs,” said Jonathan Zaentz, Chicago Fire Department district chief of special projects. “The MHN Paramedic Partnership allows them to coordinate with community resources and support relationships between the patient and medical and social services.”
If the pilot is successful, MHN hopes to renew its yearlong funding and work with the city to expand the project to other regions served by Chicago EMS.
“The MHN Paramedic Partnership envisions a new role for EMS in community health,” said MHN President and CEO Cheryl Lulias. “We expect this groundbreaking collaboration with the City of Chicago to expand to other communities to help eliminate unnecessary ambulance calls and Emergency Department visits and encourage closer ties between patients and their primary care physicians.”
About Medical Home Network
Medical Home Network (MHN) is a nationally recognized not-for-profit organization focused on transforming care in the safety net and building healthier communities. Based in Chicago, MHN powers the future of healthcare delivery by creating clinically integrated, digitally connected and community-based systems of care that focus on the whole person. MHN’s innovative approach consistently delivers leading health outcomes, savings, and quality results under value-based arrangements. For the second year in a row, Modern Healthcare named MHN one of the Best Places to Work in Healthcare. Learn more at medicalhomenetwork.org and on LinkedIn.
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In alignment with our mission, Medical Home Network strives to create a work environment that supports equality, diversity of thought, and makes all people feel welcome. As an organization, our core values of equity, equality, diversity and inclusion guide the work we do, the relationships we build, and the way we recruit, develop and retain our people. We recognize this process is a journey, and we stand firm in our commitment to learn and change, champion diversity, and hold ourselves accountable.
Medical Home Network also invests in meaningful programming such as internships and fellowships that help young adults from under-resourced communities gain work experience in order to land quality jobs after college. In addition, MHN provides targeted financial support to community-based organizations that empower, educate and provide opportunities for low-income individuals and families and help them build stable futures.