Minnesota has numerous health care disparities. Granite Falls Health-Ambulance
has stepped up to address many of these disparities by implementing a community
The goal of
the program is to manage and develop treatment techniques for patients in their
home, prevent costly and unnecessary Emergency Room visits, decrease
hospitalizations and prevent hospital readmissions. Over the past 11 months,
the program has proven itself effective by reducing overall health care cost,
increasing patient satisfaction and improving the overall health and well-being
paramedics operate under the license of the physician medical director and
serve as an extension of the primary care physician providing care in patients’
homes. Residents living in and around the community of Granite Falls have
limited transportation options, causing great difficulty for patients getting
to and from medical appointments. This program provides direct access to health
care in the patient’s home from two certified community paramedics who are also
registered nurses. Two emergency medical technicians also assist the community
paramedics as needed.
paramedicine is not a new concept to Minnesota; however, Granite Falls’
community paramedic program is the first in rural Southwest Minnesota. While
rural communities host 20 percent of the total population, only 10 percent of
physicians practice rurally. This leads to a physician-to-patient ratio of 12.5
to 10,000, compared to the Minnesota state average of 27 to 10,000. The
community paramedic program strives to respond to this gap by decreasing the
workload of the primary care provider, serving as the eyes and ears of the
provider in patients’ homes.
visits, community paramedics provide services such as hospital or emergency
room discharge follow-up care, medication reconciliation, home inspection and
safety checks, review of local resources, mental health screenings, physical
assessments, chronic disease monitoring and patient education. Particular focus
has recently been placed on mental health screenings and referral for services.
Access to mental health services is limited in many rural communities, but
Granite Falls Health employs a licensed psychologist who serves as a critical
resource for the community paramedic program.
began operations Jan. 1, 2017. To date, 65 patients have been referred to the
program, accounting for 341 total visits. In the first six months of operation,
the program decreased Emergency Room visits by 64 percent and hospitalizations
by 52 percent for enrolled patients. To achieve this, the overall cost of the
program totaled just over $60,000.