Bill would give paramedics more leeway to treat patients

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COEUR d'ALENE - Rep. Eric Redman introduced a bill Tuesday that is designed to reduce emergency room visits by allowing paramedics more leeway to treat patients in the field.

Redman, R-Athol, could eventually co-sponsor the bill with primary sponsor Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d'Alene. The bill was introduced in the House Health and Welfare Committee.

Malek said currently the only service that Emergency Medical Services can bill for is transporting a patient to a hospital.

If his bill passes, the new legislation would allow Emergency Medical Technicians, or paramedics, to treat more patients in the field without having to transport them to an emergency room.

Under the terms of the bill, which has yet to be printed, that care would have to be remotely supervised by a physician over the telephone or Internet, Malek said.

The bill would amend existing Emergency Medical Service laws to include definitions for "community health" emergency medical services, "community" EMT and "community" paramedics.

Malek said the move would decrease the cost of health care by focusing care on the patient rather than transporting them to the hospital.

He said the bill would create a more value-based health care system, rather than the current volume-based health care system.

A demonstration project has been established in Ada County, and Malek has been working with them to write the legislation.

"We are creating a platform that communities can build on," Malek said, adding any countywide EMS agency can create whatever community health programs it wants using its existing systems.

In Ada County the demonstration project was started in 2011 with a focus on additional education, stakeholder engagement and program design.

The county has established a patient follow-up program for patients who need assistance following their health care plans after visiting the hospital.

The Ada County Community Paramedic program also has a mobile flu vaccination clinic, bio-metric health and prevention screenings.

It also used the program to divert mental health patients away from the emergency room and into mental health facilities where they can get the help they need.

Malek said the bill is gaining bipartisan support and House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Moscow, has already agreed to co-sponsor the bill.

"It's a public health thing," Malek said. "It's a first step in a long journey toward quality health care."

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