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Patient assessment is a fundamental feature of community paramedicine, but the absence of a recognized standard for assessment practices contributes to uncertainty about what drives care planning and treatment decisions. Our objective was to summarize the content of assessment instruments and describe the state of current practice in community paramedicine home visit programs.
We performed an environmental scan of all community paramedicine programs in Ontario, Canada, and used content analysis to describe current assessment practices in home visit programs. The International Classification on Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF) was used to categorize and compare assessments. Each item within each assessment form was classified according to the ICF taxonomy.
A total of 43 of 52 paramedic services in Ontario, Canada, participated in the environmental scan with 24 being eligible for further investigation through content analysis of intake assessment forms. Among the 24 services, 16 met inclusion criteria for content analysis. Assessment forms contained between 13 and 252 assessment items (median 116.5, IQR 134.5). Most assessments included some content from each of the domains outlined in the ICF. At the subdomain level, only assessment of impairments of the functions of the cardiovascular, hematological, immunological, and respiratory systems appeared in all assessments.
Although community paramedicine home visit programs may differ in design and aim, all complete multi-domain assessments as part of patient intake. If community paramedicine home visit programs share similar characteristics but assess patients differently, it is difficult to expect that the resulting referrals, care planning, treatments, or interventions will be similar.
As an aging population continues to place strain on the health care system, many older adults are living with unmet social and medical needs. In response, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) have initiated programs that encourage paramedics to refer patients in need to community based support services. This qualitative study explores frontline paramedic experiences with referral programs to identify opportunities and challenges in their practice.
This study used an intepretivist qualitative study design involving interviews of frontline paramedics employed in a region where referral programs were in place. Interviews were semi-structured and one-on-one. Data were transcribed verbatim and analyzed using inductive open coding throughout, then grouped to identify themes. Data collection and analysis were conducted simultaneously and flexibly until saturation.
Twenty-three interviews were conducted representing 6 regions. When participating with referral programs the data revealed that frontline paramedics appear to experience (a) role confusion, (b) an inadequate knowledge base, (c) inadequate feedback, (d) undefined accountability, and (e) strong patient advocacy.
In a strained health care system, EMS and paramedics have an opportunity to better serve patients by initiating referrals for patients they encounter with unmet social and medical needs. However, referral programs face a number of challenges that, if left poorly addressed, may threaten the success of such programs.
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