New plans designed to cut costs and improve patient care involve using specially trained paramedics in order to reduce avoidable trips to the emergency room.
Around the country, the role of paramedics is changing. In various states, they’re receiving extra training to provide more primary and preventive care and to take certain patients to urgent care or mental health clinics rather than more costly emergency rooms. Ramsdell and others in his program, for instance, spent 150 hours in the classroom and with clinicians learning how to provide ongoing care for patients.
The changes are driven by the 2010 health law, which aimed to cut spending, expand patient access and improve quality of care. The federal government is funding the Nevada project and others in Arizona, Connecticut, Washington state and elsewhere.
These projects face some challenges. The American Nurses Association and other professional organizations have raised concerns about whether paramedics are receiving enough extra instruction to provide direct care. Some programs need government waivers or legislation to exempt them from restrictions on what paramedics can legally do. In addition, insurers and the government only pay for ambulances and paramedics if people are transported to the hospital.