In McKinney, a new solution to preventing unnecessary visits to the emergency room starts at home.
For about a year and a half, the McKinney Fire Department and its medical partners have participated the new Community Healthcare Paramedicine program.
According to Associate Medical Director Dr. Elizabeth Fagan, on average, early data shows the program has cut down on ER visits, 911 calls and hospital admissions by up to 65 percent for people who participate.
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“We would see the same patients over and over again like a revolving door,” Fagan said. “What this program lets us do is follow them home and try to fix some of the things that keep them coming back.”
Teams of firefighter paramedics now visit dozens of registered members. They’ve found excessive 911 calls are often symptomatic of people who don’t have access to nutrition, transportation and a variety of other factors.
“We found a lot of our patients don’t have access to care, so they call 911,” said Daniel Frey, with the McKinney Fire Department.
One of their greatest successes has been with Judy and Bill Harmison.
Bill Harmison was experiencing frequent falls due to a medical condition, leaving his wife, who is also his primary caregiver, to call 911 for help.
“My daughter said to me, 'Mom, you’ve just got to get help,'” said Judy Harmison. “What we’re having here is not just someone coming here, loading him up and taking him away to the hospital and bringing him back home. We have someone here who follows through.”
Over the course of the couple’s participation, visits from the paramedic team to Bill Harmison have included taking vital signs, doing blood work and helping organize his medications. They now check up on him once a month, as opposed to once a week, and the couple credits the program to helping them maintain their independence.
“We’re family now,” said Judy Harmison. “The guys know us, we know them. With this kind of help, I can do this!”
The program is open to McKinney residents. People interested can contact the fire department at 972-547-2850.