Lumberton tests program to keep patients out of ER

LUMBERTON, NC (WMBF) – To prevent paying more fines in compliance with a new healthcare law, some Robeson County paramedics may soon start making house calls.

Patients suffering from congestive heart failure, heart attack and respiratory illnesses, the three conditions evaluated and focused on in the Affordable Health Care Act, are readmitted to the hospital are a rate of 27 percent within 30 days of their discharge.

The Affordable Health Care Act fines hospitals if those numbers are too high.

The penalties for readmission affected 66 percent of hospitals last year, encouraging hospitals across the nation to look at innovated ways to improve education and compliance with discharge instructions following a hospital stay.

In Lumberton, Southeastern Regional Medical Center is testing a pilot program to reduce the number of patients who make a return visit to the hospital, and hopefully help the patients manage their condition at home.

The agreement between the Board of Commissioners and the Lumberton Rescue Squad will allow off duty paramedics to make home visits to patients recently discharged.

The program will begin in February 1 and is only being offered in the City of Lumberton, but it could be expanded throughout the rest of the county.

Wayne Martin, manager of the Seventh Bed Tower, tells WMBF News that care managers in the hospital assess every patient going through the transition from inpatient to outpatient, and talk to them about participating in this program.

Anyone who agrees to partake is visited by a paramedic in their home within 48 hours after their discharge. Those who are transferred to a nursing home or rehab facility do not qualify for this program.

If the visiting paramedic discovers something of concern, they will contact the care manager for treatment. If the patient has severe pains when the paramedic arrives, they will treat them and arrange transportation to the hospital.

Patients readmitted into the hospital within thirty days of their original visit incur a penalty on the hospital, even if they have been visited by a paramedic and appeared healthy during that visit.

The Southeastern Regional Medical Center is unaware of any other hospital in the nation using this model of continuing care to prevent their patients from readmitting.

The City of Lumberton is provided this service as a pilot project. If it's deemed successful, and the hospital sees a 20 to 25 percent reduction in readmission, they will use it more widely.

Paramedics will be paid $35 per visit.

Lumberton Rescue Squad has operated the helipad for the hospital at the rescue building since 1977.

Copyright 2012 WMBF News. All rights reserved.