Scottsdale Fire Department launches community medicine effort

The Scottsdale Fire Department has started a holistic approach to helping Scottsdale residents navigate the oftentimes confusing medical service industry. (Photo courtesy of the Scottsdale Fire Department)

The Scottsdale Fire Department has started a holistic approach to helping Scottsdale residents navigate the oftentimes confusing medical service industry. (Photo courtesy of the Scottsdale Fire Department)

A new program developed by Scottsdale Fire Department aims to address medical emergencies before they happen.

Community Medicine, abbreviated CM601, is the first mobile unit designed by Scottsdale Fire Department to assist residents with post-hospital care and to prevent medical emergencies.

Hospital bills for an emergency call can easily reach $5,000 to $8,000, Fire Chief Tom Shannon explained in a phone interview. This includes emergency room admission, running the fire truck, and other treatment charges.

“This is proactive service delivery,” Chief Shannon said of CM601.

Navigating the health care environment can be confusing for some patients, Division Chief John Whitney explained in a phone interview. CM601 will help patients connect to health care resources after hospitalization, and teach patients how to understand post-discharge instructions.

“We want to make sure patients are getting the right care,” Whitney said. “What we like about (CM601) is it’s a detailed solution.”

Whitney, along with Capt. Andy McDonald and the EMS division, came up with the idea for Community Medicine. A “reconnaissance” program was launched to analyze the target population, size of the community to be served, and other details of what would be necessary to launch an operational mobile unit.

The research team was comprised of “light duty” firefighters, Whitney explained. Firefighters who, for various reasons or medical conditions, could not go out on calls with the fire truck.

This design worked well for the research phase, Whitney continued, but it’s not a sustainable program. In the future, CM601 will employ two full-time staff members and create more consistency within the project.

When Chief Shannon first heard the EMS division’s plans for a preventative care mobile unit, he was optimistic.

“My reaction was, let’s really jump in with both feet on this,” he recalled. “We as a department have been tracking changes in health care for quite some time. We try to get extremely proactive with all out-of-hospital care.”

After one year of research, CM601 emerged in partnership with Honor Health. The mobile unit will eventually consist of one truck, a Scottsdale Fire Department captain paramedic, and an Honor Health nurse practitioner.

“Without the partnership with Honor Health, this would not be possible,” Whitney said.

Scottsdale Fire Department has a long-standing relationship with Honor Health, reaching back to the time when the hospital was known as Scottsdale Healthcare, Chief Shannon explained.

The mobile unit will target mainly the chronic care population; such as persons suffering from diabetes or heart disease, veterans, and patients with behavioral health problems.

Patients who are frequent users of the 9-1-1 system, as well as patients with multiple hospital re-admissions, are also on the list.

Community Medicine patients will meet with staff to undergo a general physical assessment, Whitney described. This allows mobile unit staff to better assess the patient’s needs. From there, they review hospital post-discharge instructions and develop a treatment plan for the patient. Staff may also assess a patient’s home for trip or fall hazards, broken fire detectors, and other in-home dangers.

Depending on how the initial visit goes, CM601 may then create a follow-up schedule.
The mobile unit will work with patients for any length of time the individual may need, Whitney said. This may mean one visit with a patient, or it may mean monthly check-ins for an extended period of time.

“There’s a lot of people who have access to [health services], they just don’t know how to use them,” Whitney said.

The list of potential patients identified by the research team is hundreds of names long. Once the mobile unit is operational, they will simply start at the top of the list and work their way down.

Enrollment in the program is not compulsory, Whitney added. At-risk patients may accept or decline enrollment once it has been offered. And the fire department will not access patients’ medical records without their permission.

Ms. Walker is a freelance journalist under contract with the North Valley Office of Independent Newsmedia Inc. USA

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