As health care systems in the United States have become pressured to provide greater value, they have embraced the adoption of innovative population health solutions. One of these initiatives utilizes prehospital personnel in the community as an extension of the traditional health care system. These programs have been labeled as Community Paramedicine (CP) and Mobile Integrated Health (MIH). While variation exists amongst these programs, generally efforts are targeted at individuals with high rates of health care utilization. By assisting with chronic disease management and addressing the social determinants of health care, these programs have been effective in decreasing Emergency Medical Services (EMS) utilization, emergency department visits, and hospital admissions for enrolled patients.
The actual training, roles, and structure of these programs vary according to state oversight and community needs, and while numerous reports describe the novel role these teams play in population health, their utilization during a disaster response has not been previously described. This report describes a major flooding event in October 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina (USA). While typical disaster mitigation and response efforts were employed, it became clear during the response that the MIH providers were well-equipped to assist with unique patient and public health needs. Given their already well-established connections with various community health providers and social assistance resources, the MIH team was able to reconnect patients with lost medications and durable medical equipment, connect patients with alternative housing options, and arrange access to outpatient resources for management of chronic illness.
Mobile integrated health teams are a potentially effective resource in a disaster response, given their connections with a variety of community resources along with a unique combination of training in both disease management and social determinants of health. As roles for these providers are more clearly defined and training curricula become more developed, there appears to be a unique role for these providers in mitigating morbidity and decreasing costs in the post-disaster response. Training in basic disaster response needs should be incorporated into the curricula and community disaster planning should identify how these providers may be able to benefit their local communities.
Gainey CE, Brown HA, Gerard WC. Utilization of mobile integrated health providers during a flood disaster in South Carolina (USA). Prehosp Disaster Med. 2018;33(4):432–435