“(HHS) goals are pretty simple. They want to improve health care quality and convenience for patients while lowering the cost,” said Patrick Smith, president of the Regional Emergency Medical Services Authority, or REMSA. “They believe we are going to set a pathway to start changing how health care is provided in Washoe County, Reno and Sparks. We will be a model for the country to adopt.”
Smith could not say enough about the many REMSA employees present Wednesday at the organization’s education building in Reno during the announcement of the Health Care Innovation Award. REMSA, a private nonprofit emergency medical services system, was recognized nationally by the HHS for having one of the most innovative plans for providing care.
After receiving 3,700 proposals, the HHS handed out 107 awards nationwide totaling $900 million. Smith explained REMSA’s three-step plan to ultimately provide quality care and bring down costs.
PART 1: Ambulance Flexibility – “The first part involves all of our ambulances. Currently, if we pick somebody up we must take to our emergency department. That is our only option,” Smith said. “Now, with the involvement of Medicare and HHS, they will allow us to treat and not transport people, or transport them to a lower-acuity setting such as an urgent care. There are patients we pick up where their problems are low-acuity enough that they are going to allow us to take them to a physician’s office.”
PART 2: New nurse triage – “We are going to establish the second piece out of our Medical Communications Center, which is one of 3 percent in the world that is an accredited medical communication center,” Smith said. “We are expanding that center, we are putting in new nurses and we are putting in a non-emergency line the community and our partners will be able to call and get advice. We will then be able to link together to get the patient the most appropriate care.”
PART 3: Advanced Community Paramedics – “We will soon be training a group of our paramedics to become what we now call Advanced Community Paramedics. They will be linked into the new system, and they will not be in an ambulance, but in separate mobile cars,” Smith said. “They will be linking with hospital partners and medical home groups certified by Medicare, to do visits to people in their homes to prevent serious illness that lands them in the hospital or avoids readmission to the hospital.”
Dr. Joseph Iser, district health officer for the Washoe County Health District, said REMSA’s plan has the potential to innovate the nation’s health care initiatives in the future.
“This really is a grant that will change the face of medicine as I see it and have seen it over the last 30 years throughout the nation, certainly, if the results are positive,” Iser said. “This will be a dramatic change nationwide and has the potential to save money and provide a better care model for our patients.”
REMSA projects that $10.5 million will be saved in health care costs in the region over the next three years. Approximately 22 new jobs will be created during the implementation of the plan, expected to come in the fields of community paramedics, communication specialists, outreach and improvement coordinators, information technology specialists and project directors.
“This is the direction medicine is going. It is patient centered, it is moving resources to the patient rather than the patient to the resources and it will be very cost effective,” county Commissioner Bob Larkin said. “This community has the potential now, and everything is in place, to become a center of excellence for this station-centered concept.”