RENO, NEVADA - REMSA (Regional Emergency Medical Services Authority) is one of only 107 organizations in the United States to be awarded a Health Care Innovation Award from the federal government.
REMSA's project has been funded with almost $9.9 million from the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS); REMSA estimates that the program will save $10.5 million in healthcare costs in the region over three years.
The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services will administer the award.
The non-profit REMSA is receiving the award to create a new program that could truly revolutionize how medical care is provided outside of the hospital nationwide.
REMSA, in partnership with Renown Medical Home, Renown Regional Medical Center, Northern Nevada Medical Center, Saint Mary's Regional Medical Center, the University of Nevada-Reno School of Community Health Sciences, the Washoe County Health District, and the State of Nevada Office of Emergency Medical Services, is receiving the award to create a new program that specifically responds to lower acuity and chronic disease conditions in urban, suburban, and rural areas of Washoe County.
The program is designed to improve patients' healthcare experience while reducing unnecessary ambulance responses, and hospital admissions and readmissions. A central component to the program is the creation of a new non-emergency phone number, to provide an alternative care pathway for patients that need medical advice and care. Over the three-year period, the program will create an estimated 22 new jobs.
The awards from the HHS Medicare and Medicaid Innovation Center support innovative projects nationwide designed to deliver the best care for the whole population at the least cost. The agency received more than 3,000 applications and provided about $900 million to fund the selected projects.
All awarded projects must demonstrate how they would deliver better health, improve care and lower costs to people enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), particularly those with the highest health care needs. Funding for these projects is for three years. All Innovation projects awarded by HHS are expected to produce cost savings beyond the three-year award.
The new REMSA program will develop three innovative elements. They all address the shortage of primary care providers for Medicare, Medicaid and uninsured patients, and reduce the inappropriate use of emergency services for primary care conditons. Improved and timely primary care access will reduce the likelihood that simple medical problems will deteriorate into serious or life-threatening emergencies.
The first element involves an alternate pathway for individuals to access, via telephone, healthcare services for non-emergency conditions though REMSA's accredited medical communications center. With a lower acuity level problem than of the traditional 9-1-1 call can talk to a nurse who is experienced in emergency medical triage and response. Since this communicator is located in the REMSA 9-1-1 medical communications center, emergency medical dispatch (EMD) staff can be consulted to assist both emergency and lower acuity callers.
The second element of the program is initiated after the call is triaged as appropriate for alternative pathways of care provided by a new level of advanced community paramedic. A specially trained REMSA medic is dispatched to address the needs of those patients with minor medical problems on-scene, and refer, or transport the patient to a medical facility other than a hospital emergency room (which is required now). Alternate facilities can include urgent care centers, physician offices, and mental health facilities, which provide appropriate care to patients at a lower cost than an emergency department. Traditional ambulance resources will also access and use alternate facilities for patient transports when appropriate.
The third element of the program involves REMSA advanced community paramedics working with the community's medical facilities and Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) initiatives to provide appropriate follow up monitoring for patients recently released from the hospital to reduce post-discharge complications and costly readmissions. Program paramedics will also help with community health surveillance, education, home safety and injury prevention.
REMSA will demonstrate the options to safely treat at the scene and release or refer patients, or transport them when needed to alternate care facilities will result in significant healthcare savings for patients and the community.
"This is the crux of how healthcare can be improved and savings can be realized here and eventually across the United States," said Patrick Smith, president of REMSA. "New innovative healthcare approaches are essential to meet the changing and growing demand for service while reducing costs". REMSA believes the federal agency that examined and funded its proposal was due to the innovative approach and potential to positively impact the serious healthcare problems facing the nation.
The 22 new jobs created by the program will include advanced community paramedics, communication specialists, nurses, an educator, continuous quality improvement coordinators, an outreach coordinator, an information technology specialist, a statistician, an administrative support specialist, and a project director.
REMSA is a private, non- profit emergency medical services system serving northern Nevada. REMSA's state-of-the-art 9-1-1 dispatch communications center is fully accredited, as are all emergency medical transport services of the company. REMSA provides quality patient care with no taxpayer support or other subsidies.