Community response: Westfield creates new paramedicine program

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The City of Westfield is trying to reduce unnecessary hospital trips and 911 calls with its new Field Resource Paramedicine program, which also aims to provide services to those in need of mental health support.

When WFD EMS Division Chief Patrick Hutchison joined the department in May 2019, he noted that 70 percent of 911 responses were medical-related calls.

“It’s a large part of our call volume, and I realized there were some opportunities to expand what we are doing in EMS,” he said. “As I came into the position, I started to see some opportunities to really integrate the fire department EMS role with some of the (Westfield Wellbeing Coalition) goals, and that’s kind of how things started.”

The FRP program is operated by two paramedics and one firefighter paramedic working a rotating shift every three days. The paramedics are in a specially-equipped SUV with a computer mounted inside so they can see information from dispatchers.

From left, Field Resource Paramedics Brandon Taylor and Eryn Green with EMS Division Chief Patrick Hutchison during a shift change at Westfield Fire Station 81. Not pictured is FRP Rick Gingerich

“They will be dispatched to certain calls,” Hutchison said. “They will be responding to lower-acuity calls – like personal medical alert calls. Sometimes, that’s a malfunction of the device, so instead of sending so many resources, they’ll be the initial response to those to evaluate to see if we need additional resources.

“Historically, looking back at years’ worth of data to see how critical those patients have been, often times they are not that critical.”

Mainly, the program will be used to prevent and manage chronic illness, but FRP paramedics also will respond to high-level trauma incidents, like car wrecks, to provide an extra set of hands.

The FRP also will serve as a way to monitor certain hospital patients who have recently been discharged.
“A hospital patient may come home from the hospital and have diabetes and heart failure, and the FRPs will monitor them if they are not needing an intensive follow up such as a home health care agency,” Hutchison said. “They can help the patient manage medications. It helps us by reducing a lot of resource use by sending an ambulance and fire engine, and we also hope to decrease admission to the hospitals.”

Typically, the FRPs have scheduled visits with patients who have been discharged from a hospital.

“Fishers started a similar program a couple of years ago and has been very successful,” Hutchison said. “We have been in communication with their EMS chief and that has helped us a lot with building some of our protocols.”

Originally, the City of Westfield was looking at a summer launched but moved it to the spring when the department’s workload increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program launched April 2.

“This is a paradigm shift as we are seeing our fire personnel are really becoming more medical experts,” City of Westfield Communications Director Vicki Duncan Gardner said. “Our goal is to keep people in their homes, which is better for the patient and better for the hospital system.”

Duncan Gardner also said the FRP may be used for mental health situations because field resource paramedics go through crisis intervention training similar to that provided to law enforcement officers. 

“As we see their expertise and their training in mental health situations, in the past those kinds of calls you might get a police car, but maybe it’s not appropriate to put someone in the back of that kind of vehicle,” Duncan Gardner said. “So on mental health calls, now these guys will have expertise to minimize some of those implications.”

Finding the field resource paramedics

The Westfield Fire Dept. conducted an internal hiring process to find its field resource paramedics for the Field Resource Paramedicine program.

“It was basically a promotion. They had to have so many years of experience as a paramedic,” WFD EMS Division Chief Patrick Hutchison said. “We really wanted someone who knows Westfield and has been familiar with those resources and building relationships.”

The FRP paramedics are Eryn Green, Brandon Taylor and Rick Gingerich.

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