Just what the paramedics ordered

By Vickie Aldous 
Originally published at the Mail Tribune 

Mercy Flights paramedic Trevor Waggoner recalls a diabetic patient who was constantly in and out of the emergency room.

“He was really struggling with knowing how to manage his diabetes and was having to call 911 probably at least three times a week, sometimes more often,” Waggoner says. “Sometimes it was multiple times in a day that his blood sugar was getting very low — dangerously low.”

The patient would lose consciousness, or if he was still alert, would become so combative with paramedics that police had to be called to help, Waggoner says.

At $1,200 per ambulance ride and $1,300 for a basic emergency room visit, the man’s inability to control his blood sugar levels was also costly.

Nationwide, research shows chronic emergency room overuse makes up the fourth largest category of waste in the health care system.

Locally, patients who overuse emergency rooms make up 5 percent of Jackson Care Connect’s members, but account for 50 percent of health care costs, according to the coordinated care organization that, along with AllCare Health, uses state and federal funding to manage the physical, mental and dental care of about one-third of county residents.

Recognizing the problem, Mercy Flights launched a new program in 2016 to send specially trained paramedics out on house calls to help prevent chronic emergency room use.

“They’re in uniform and the public trusts paramedics to go into their house,” says Mercy Flights CEO Doug Stewart, explaining the rationale for using paramedics. “Mercy Flights goes out every day to emergencies. We go into houses. We’re trusted to have high integrity and professionalism. We’re more comfortable in the field than in the hospital. We’re used to total chaos and sorting through the chaos and figuring out what’s needed. It was a perfect road for us to go down and it makes total sense.”

Continue reading the whole article at the Mail Tribune 

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