To Reduce Overdose and Relapse, Phoenix Paramedic Solutions Unite Communities on the Same Digital Page

Drug addiction and overdosing are major public health threats sweeping the entire country, particularly when it comes to opioids. But Nathaniel Metz, president of Phoenix Paramedic Solutions, had no idea how quickly he would have to scale up his new quick response team (QRT) program to address these challenges in his community.

Based in Lafayette, Indiana, Phoenix Paramedic Solutions launched the QRT program in December 2018 to reach individuals within 72 hours following an overdose and quickly get them into community treatment and recovery programs. The goal was to have peer-to-peer support with drug-free individuals trained as counselors connecting with those struggling with addiction.

However, police dispatch data wasn’t always reliable or timely, and by the time paramedics were able to reach potential patients, they were already incarcerated. QRT counselors found themselves at the center of several complex systems including law enforcement, county courts, social services, and area hospitals, not to mention the multifactorial problems patients faced that led to drug addiction and overdose. Having accurate, fast, centralized data was critical if this program was going to have an impact.

“We weren’t reaching the people we needed within the window of time we needed to reach them,” said Metz. “An overdose usually indicates multiple other factors that need to be addressed, such as mental health and possible medical conditions, housing, and employment. These patients have very complex needs, and relying on old-fashioned paperwork or verbal follow-through increased the risk of losing them and having them relapse.”

To keep patients in recovery and reduce their chances of overdosing and ending up in jail again, Metz turned to HealthCall’s cloud-based care coordination platform and custom care programs, which enables real-time team collaboration while guiding peer counselors in following best practices.

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Moreover, Metz was able to customize HealthCall’s Community Care Network so he could interface with community prisons and case managers, allowing everyone across a variety of systems and services to literally be on the same page when it came to overseeing a patient’s progress.

“Once we’ve connected with a patient,” said Metz, “we can get him or her in our system, be connected with the case manager, see when they might have a court appearance scheduled, see which faith-based or recovery programs they’re in, how they’re doing in that program, and then coordinate follow-up in real-time. It’s collaboration across all of these different community services instead of working in silos. We say connection is the opposite of addiction, and as long as we keep everyone connected to the patient, we stand a better chance of reducing relapse.”

Going digital made a significant difference, from capturing more patients to better coordination of care to higher retention rates to improving transitions of care, especially when it comes to jail release or moving someone from the hospital to an inpatient treatment program. Corrections and jail populations have kept Phoenix Paramedics’ QRT particularly busy. As of May, among Phoenix Paramedics’ 168 encounters, 42 patients were diverted to treatment and 19 had care plans upon treatment facility release. Moreover:

Successful encounter rate, since including jail population, jumped from 24.7% to 74.4%
Now reaching 58% of those referred, and getting individuals into recovery programs 78% of the time.
Overdoses are down 36%

With these enabling technologies, Phoenix Paramedics Solutions has been so successful that it quickly expanded in scope from initially serving only Tippecanoe County to providing services in neighboring Jasper and White counties. Metz said the program may expand to a total of 12 counties across Indiana later this year.