Ariz. Fire Department Announces Telehealth Pilot Program for Veterans
The Chandler Fire, Health & Medical (CFHM) Department is collaborating with the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Healthcare System on an innovative six-month pilot project that both organizations hope will not only improve healthcare outcomes for thousands of area veterans, but also serve as a model program for fire departments around the nation.
The new Community Involvement and Intervention Project is bringing CFHM and Veterans Administration (VA) medical resources together to help ensure Chandler veterans receive timely and appropriate healthcare, including proactive scheduling of follow-up medical services.
The pilot project was approved by Chandler Mayor Jay Tibshraeny and the City Council on Monday, Dec. 7, and CFHM Community Paramedics began visiting veterans and facilitating care with Phoenix VA Healthcare staff the next morning.
“We value veterans in our community, and this partnership between the VA and our Fire, Health & Medical Department reinforces our commitment to being a ‘Veteran Friendly City,’” said Chandler Mayor Jay Tibshraeny. “Through this program, we are connecting patients with the people and the care that they need—and that will make a huge difference in the lives of Chandler veterans.”
Many of the emergency medical calls that CFHM personnel respond to each day involve patients who are military veterans. These calls vary from serious medical situations and behavior related issues to calls that are less serious in nature.
During this pilot program, CFHM first responders will screen patients to identify those who are veterans and then help start the process to connect them to VA medical services and benefits. Part of the veteran’s follow up treatment during this pilot program will involve in-home visits from CFHM community paramedics who will assess the healthcare needs of the patient during a telehealth medical appointment with a VA nurse practitioner via mobile tablets.
The inclusion of telemedicine is one of the unique aspects of the program. It places advanced teleconferencing technology into the hands of the paramedics who are visiting the patient, and enables face-to-face communication with the healthcare professionals at the VA.
“Our primary goal of this partnership is to connect every Chandler veteran with the Phoenix VA healthcare services that they not only need, but deserve,” said Fire Chief Jeff Clark. “Chandler firefighters and paramedics will serve as the eyes, ears, and hands of the VA medical staff. They will use their assessment skills in tandem with telehealth technology to provide VA care providers with the crucial information they need to make informed decisions regarding veterans’ healthcare.”
Chandler Fire Health & Medical Department’s progressive approach to service delivery, willingness to innovate and existing community paramedicine program made it an ideal partner for the Phoenix VA Healthcare System. Chandler uses two, two-person community paramedic crews that focus on providing services to individuals who have chronic medical needs that often result in numerous visits to the hospital emergency room. By being proactive and targeting certain patients for more attentive short term intervention, community paramedics can help these patients manage their healthcare needs while potentially reducing their medical costs, and decreasing the frequency of 9-1-1 calls and ER visits.
“The Phoenix VA has some unique informational database and analytical capabilities that enable us to utilize the power of predictive modeling,” said Dr. Hamed Abbaszadegan, Chief Health Informatics Officer with the Phoenix VA Healthcare System. “The analytics help us identify which chronic care patients are most likely to call 9-1-1, and why and when that might happen. If we can reach out to a patient before something happens, we might be able to prevent an emergency. This partnership with Chandler Fire, Health & Medical will help us do that.”
Early in the process, State Representative Bob Robson of Chandler was instrumental in connecting the VA with Chandler officials to begin the discussion of the pilot program. Chief Clark notes that the Intergovernmental Agreement with the VA will not require the City to expend any additional funds. “We are utilizing programs and resources that are already in existence,” he said. “But now, if a patient is a veteran, we have additional resources to get that patient the quality healthcare they earned by serving this country in the armed forces.”
For more information about the pilot project call 480-782-2120, or visit www.chandleraz.gov/fire.