House Calls Return As Cost-Cutting Move For North Memorial

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(credit: CBS) John Lauritsen
John Lauritsen is a reporter from Montevideo, Minn. He joined WCCO-...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A Twin Cities hospital is trying to help cut down on health care costs by returning to an old-age idea: house calls.

Fifteen months ago, North Memorial Medical Center launched a program called “Community Paramedics.”

A few days each week, certified paramedics visit people at home who have been to the emergency room multiple times over the past year.

For 25 years, paramedic Chris Anderson has been working out of an ambulance, trying to help people during emergencies. But two days a week now, he takes a break from the fast lane and takes his time making house calls.

“We actually get to see how they’re living, how they are taking the medications,” Anderson said. “It’s an insight a lot of doctors and nurses don’t get.”

He is part of North Memorial’s Community Paramedics. They’ve made close to 1,500 house calls in just 15 months.

The goal is to keep people out of the emergency room, saving the patient, insurance companies, and the hospital thousands of dollars a year.

“Patients that have visited the emergency department as many as nine times are kind of a priority for us,” said program manager Barb Andrews.

With diabetes, high blood pressure and other health concerns, Frazier Searcy is exactly the type of patient the program can help.

“You name it, I think I have dealt with it,” Searcy said.

He takes 20 medications four times a day, but thanks to Anderson’s weekly visits, when and what to take is no longer a worry.

“It’s just a godsend to have someone come in here and set this up,” Searcy said.

He said his trips to the emergency room have gone from nearly two dozen a year, to just two last year.

It’s a life-saving program that has had a life-changing impact on its patients.

“You kind of start to realize if someone had had help earlier on, they wouldn’t have needed the ambulance at all,” Anderson said.

After each visit, community paramedics give a detailed report to the patient’s doctor.

Minnesota is the only state that uses “certified” paramedics for the program and receives reimbursement.

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