Late last year, St. Luke’s Magic Valley moved to make good on the organization’s mission to improve the health of people in the communities we serve, with a heightened emphasis on “in the communities.”
Responders in Twin Falls have adopted the Community Health Emergency Medical Services (CHEMS) model to increase access to care and extend primary care into patients’ homes and other settings.
Through CHEMS, emergency medical services responders can be incorporated into the general health-care delivery system. In Idaho, CHEMS allows for all levels of EMS providers and agencies to provide continued or follow-up care that can prevent unnecessary readmissions, or care in response to 911 calls from those patients. The extended care must be provided within their scope of practice.
There is no standardized role for CHEMS providers, but the state provides guidance regarding how the program can function at the local level. And since St. Luke’s handles 911 calls in Twin Falls and Jerome counties, and because a high proportion of the types of concerns that patients and callers have can be addressed at home, the CHEMS approach is a practical solution to a raft of medical concerns; the state lists transitional care, vaccinations, medication inventories, resource coordination and basic medical practices as examples of the work that CHEMS responders can do.
“Maybe 60 to 70 percent of call volume consists of pretty basic complaints, so they don’t necessarily need to go to the ER,” said James Rhom, St. Luke’s community health EMS supervisor. “Programs across the country are starting to train EMTs more toward public health, case management and primary care.”
Having trained personnel in the field results in fewer medically unnecessary 911 calls and trips to emergency departments.
“Sniffles, sprained toes, and stuff like that. You name it, we’ve probably been called out for it,” Rhom said. “What this program can do is get the patient the help that they need.”
The program had been up and running for a matter of months when COVID-19 became a primary concern for health systems across the country. CHEMS has allowed Magic Valley to respond to COVID-possible patients in a unique manner. Teams are able to evaluate and screen patients and can perform testing in patients’ homes, adding a layer of safety and lessening the potential for further spread.
Patients are contacted for the next three to seven days, and a phone-based assessment is performed. If an intervention or transport is needed, the community health EMS is available to help get the patient the care they need.
“We’re tracking COVID and we’re doing a lot of public health work with the COVID response staff,” Rhom said. “We’re just helping out where we’re needed.”
While CHEMS has been especially valuable during the COVID outbreak, Rhom said it is clear that the program will continue to benefit the community in a number of ways going forward.
“We’re able to give people options,” he said.
Community Health EMS is available through physician referral and then to those callers who have previously been referred. Patients can talk to their doctors or a care team. Providers can call 986-200-2421 or 208-814-9029 or email CHEMS@slhs.org.
Chris Langrill is a writer and copy editor for the St. Luke’s Communications and Marketing department.