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Paramedics trying to prevent emergency room visits in Lancaster County

EAST LAMPETER TOWNSHIP, LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. -- A new program in Lancaster County aims at keeping patients out of the emergency room.

Paramedics are putting more focus on preventing hospital visits instead of reacting to patients' emergencies.

Community paramedics for Lancaster EMS are now visiting people wherever they are: inside their houses, at parks, convenience stores, etc.

They're bringing along packets, simple information, that is saving some people money and those pesky hospital trips.

When paramedic Carli Moua hits the road, it's lights off and zero sirens.

That's atypical for a paramedic in the Commonwealth.

Officially, she's the Community Paramedicine Supervisor for Lancaster EMS in East Lampeter Township.

Sounds complicated, right? It's really quite simple.

"I'm a pre-hospital RN, I love the lights and sirens part of it, but as a nurse and in the community paramedic role, you can really address the person as a whole person. You can see them prior to going to the hospital. You can follow up after the hospital," explained Moua.

She's one of four paramedics on the team who go out into the community instead of constantly taking people to or even back to the hospital for that matter.

"Sometimes, we meet at places outside of their homes, at parks, wherever they feel comfortable," she added. "They would definitely rather see us at home than go into the hospital. Some of the patients we see on the longer term, you get to know them, and they really open up, and it's much easier to meet their needs once you establish that relationship."

"It's helping out the hospital because it's reducing re-admissions. That's important," said Bob May, executive director for Lancaster EMS.

Who wants to be there anyways?

"It's overwhelming," described Moua. "When you get out of the hospital, you have these new instructions and new medication, and you just want to feel better, and you don't want to go back to the hospital, and you don't know where to start..."

The community paramedics get the ball rolling - making sure patients have all their follow up doctor visits scheduled, all their medications and how to take them, transportation to and from the doctor's office, and the ability to recognize symptoms of an illness.

That's on top of doing blood draws, wound care, EKGs, breathing treatments, and more.

Sounds like a lot, but they believe it's making a big difference.

"There's an added cost of course to developing a program like this, but as everything switches to prevention and keeping people out of the hospital... that's key to our nation's healthcare," finalized Moua.

There's an entire list of services offered to patients under the community paramedicine program, but not everyone in Lancaster County is eligible.

Community paramedics are getting just under 80 calls a month on average, but May only expects that number to increase over time.

Current AmeriHealth Caritas members fall under those who are eligible.

The contacts for referrals are Carlia Moua or Katie Miller-Amick with Lancaster EMS.

Email Carli_moua@lemsa.com or Katiemiller-amick@lemsa.com or call (717) 481-4841 ext. 113 for Moua's office.

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