November 18, 2020, Austin, Texas — Not everyone who calls 911 may need to go to the hospital and that’s where Travis Baker, a paramedic practitioner working for Austin-Travis County EMS, comes in. Baker recently joined an EMS that serves over a large area: 2.2 million people in a region spanning 1,039 square miles. Here, providing more targeted, high-quality care at patients’ doorsteps and avoiding potentially expensive hospitalizations can have a significant effect on the community’s health care system, reducing costs and strains on resources.
Baker, who came on board in October and is also a Physician Assistant, is equipped to respond to higher-acuity calls, including performing a range of procedures from sutures to Cesarean sections. His efforts are part of an emerging trend occurring at EMS organizations nationwide in which the role of the paramedic is expanding, going beyond transport and trauma care to one equipped to deliver more complete critical and high-quality medical services without patients having to leave their homes.
This new standard in care delivery initially started at Austin-Travis County EMS as temporary pilot project to offer more EMS services to patients in their homes, free up ambulances, and avoid expensive trips to the emergency room.
Meanwhile, nationally, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has inspired leaders in paramedicine and telehealth to reimagine and update traditional delivery care models in response to hospitals facing new pressures amidst a rapidly-changing public health crisis. Moreover, the City of Austin recently selected HealthCall’s cloud-based platform to advance its community paramedicine program as part of a larger initiative to mitigate unnecessary transportations and emergency room visits.
The hospital emergency room, Baker said, “is the catch all, the safety 800 × 557net of the health care system. I’m able to build a different delivery model for medical care in our community.” The goal of this new model is to deliver the right treatment for a patient’s condition at the right time right in their home, freeing up hospital emergency departments to focus on other challenges.
Most people who call 911, especially those with lower acuity complaints, such as asthma attacks, cuts or falls, aren’t connected to the health care system, Baker explained, and many of these lower acuity calls can become a misuse of regional hospital ER resources. Baker sees an estimated 100 patients per month and about one-third of his patients are homeless.
“I would love to grow this program,” Baker said. He hopes to expand the program to more Physician Assistants to provide 24-hour critical care coverage. Click here to watch the video, and learn more about Austin-Travis County EMS here.