Residents in Calhoun, Fairfield and Lee counties will soon be able to receive health assessments and non-emergency medical care at home from specially trained paramedics, rather than traveling to a distant emergency department, thanks to a community paramedicine (CP) initiative of the South Carolina Office of Rural Health (SCORH).
Community paramedicine is a healthcare model that allows paramedics go out into the community on routine appointments to assess and treat patients in their homes under doctors’ orders. Paramedics go through extensive training beyond their paramedic certification to receive a CP endorsement.
Calhoun, Fairfield and Lee counties were selected for this training because they are three of the eight counties in South Carolina that do not have a hospital within their counties.
SCORH was awarded the Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Program – Emergency Medical Services (Flex-EMS) Supplement in 2019 to help EMS providers in rural counties develop a CP program. This was a competitive cooperative agreement through the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) in the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). SCORH is one of only six grant recipients nationwide.
The Flex-EMS Supplement will also allow SCORH to develop two other innovative models of care that will allow rural EMTs greater flexibility when responding to a 911 call:
• Alternative Destination will allow ambulances to transport patients to a more appropriate care facility (such as a primary care office) when transportation to an emergency room isn’t warranted.
• Treat-No-Transport or Telehealth will allow EMTs to provide onsite triage and treatment to patients through telehealth with a physician when transportation to an emergency room isn’t warranted.
“Emergency Medical Services (EMS) provide transportation and life-saving care to patients during their times of most dire need,” said Sarah Craig, director of health system innovation for SCORH. “But transportation to an emergency department in a neighboring county when it is not medically necessary puts a tremendous strain on our rural EMS providers. The community paramedicine model will provide faster and more appropriate care.”
Through the Flex-EMS Supplement, SCORH aims to advance community paramedicine efforts already established in the state. By the end of 2022, SCORH aims to have these innovative models of care approved by the state for use by any qualified EMS agency.
“By providing EMS agencies the ability to sustainably treat patients in the location most appropriate for the patient’s needs, it will create a more efficient and responsive healthcare delivery system,” Craig said.
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About the South Carolina Office of Rural Health
The South Carolina Office of Rural Health (SCORH) is a non-profit organization with a mission to close the gap in health status and life expectancy between rural and urban communities in the Palmetto State. SCORH has been promoting investment, opportunity and health within rural communities since 1991.
With 27 percent of our state’s residents living in rural areas, SCORH believes in preserving the unique character of rural communities without compromising their opportunities and access to critical services.
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