New program will send paramedics to visit COPD patients at home

The Sussex County Council on Tuesday voted in favor of entering into Delaware’s first “mobile integrated healthcare” program to assist patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.

The 12-month pilot program, free and voluntary to COPD patients who meet criteria, and at no cost to Sussex County taxpayers, will begin in September 2020 and provide weekly home visits from paramedics specifically trained about the disease.

“It’s a very innovative program and the first one for Delaware, so we’re excited,” said Kim Blanch, community services manager in Population Health at Beebe Healthcare.

“Patients who have COPD often will find themselves using the emergency department and/or having a hospital stay, based on the exacerbation of their illness. This is a partnership between Beebe and Sussex County Emergency Services to have a trained paramedic visit them in their homes. They might need help with affordability of their medication, medication use, follow-up of appointments, home safety concerns. This about reaching patients where they are and being able to visit a patient in his home setting. It allows us to go into their environment,” Blanch said.

“It can be weekly, up to 90 days, depending on the patients’ needs. There are certain criteria they need to meet, as far as ED visits or in-patient stay.

“We are looking at people looking for help. If someone comes in once and we don’t see them again for a year or more, they are managing their condition fairly well. We are looking at supporting those who need more help, more equipment education,” Blanch said.

She said there is a high incidence of COPD nationwide, from causes including smoking, occupational hazards and the environment.

“We’ve seen individuals with COPD often find themselves in the hospital, often calling 911 and often coming to the ER. When you have that kind of frequency, you want to see how to better to serve that population,” she said.

The program is being funded by grants, including about $31,000 of $75,000 requested from the Jessie Ball DuPont Fund and about $61,000 of $75,000 requested from Discover Bank. Additional funding will be sought, including from insurance companies.

The council signed a memorandum-of-understanding with the state office of Emergency Services and Beebe, thereby supporting the goal of “reducing re-admission of patients and improving their quality of life.”

“We are so grateful for the support of the Jesse Ball DuPont Fund. They came in from the beginning. We secured funding in 2017. In June 2019, Discover Bank awarded us a grant to cover costs, as well,” Blanch said.

“We want to improve the quality of life for these patients, and decrease visits to the ED through education and patient empowerment.”

 

By Susan Canfora

Point Reporter