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The San Francisco Fire Department’s (SFFD; San Francisco, California USA) Homeless Outreach and Medical Emergency (HOME) Team is the United States’ first Emergency Medical Services (EMS)-based outreach effort using a specially trained paramedic to redirect frequent users of EMS to other types of services. The effectiveness of this program at reducing repeat use of emergency services during the first seven months of the team’s existence was examined.
A retrospective analysis of EMS use frequency and demographic characteristics of frequent users was conducted. Clients that used emergency services at least four times per month from March 2004 through May 2005 were contacted for intervention. Patterns for each frequent user before and after intervention were analyzed. Changes in EMS use during the 15-month study interval was the primary outcome measurement.
A total of 59 clients were included. The target population had a median age of 55.1 years and was 68% male. Additionally, 38.0% of the target population was homeless, 43.4% had no primary care, 88.9% had a substance abuse disorder at time of contact, and 83.0% had a history of psychiatric disorder. The HOME Team undertook 320 distinct contacts with 65 frequent users during the study period. The average EMS use prior to HOME Team contact was 18.72 responses per month (SD=19.40), and after the first contact with the HOME Team, use dropped to 8.61 (SD=10.84), P<.001.
Frequent users of EMS suffer from disproportionate comorbidities, particularly substance abuse and psychiatric disorders. This population responds well to the intervention of a specially trained paramedic as measured by EMS usage.
TangherliniN, VillarJ, BrownJ, RodriguezRM, YehC, FriedmanBT, WadaP. The HOME Team: Evaluating the Effect of an EMS-based Outreach Team to Decrease the Frequency of 911 Use Among High Utilizers of EMS. Prehosp Disaster Med. 2016;31(6):603–607.
The objective of this study was to identify the factors that lead to increased use of emergency medical services (EMS) by patients ≥65 years of age in an urban EMS system.
Retrospective, case-control study of frequent EMS use among elderly patients transported during one year in an urban EMS system. Three distinct groups were examined for transports that took place in 1999: (1) 1–3 transports per year (low use); (2) 4–9 times per year (high use); and (3) those transported 10+ times (very high use). This frequency-use indicator variable is the primary outcome measurement. Predictors included age, gender, preexisting medical diseases, ethnicity, number of medications, number of medical problems, primary physician, psychiatric diagnosis, and homelessness. Analysis of predictors was done using ordinal logistic regression model, and a global test of interaction terms.
Male gender, black ethnicity, homelessness, and a variety of types of medical problems were associated with increased use of EMS resources. The strongest single predictor of case status remained homelessness, which was nearly eight times as commonly associated with frequent EMS use than for the controls. The number of medical problems and medications also were significantly associated with EMS use in this patient population. There was a lack of association of alcohol, substance abuse, and psychiatric disorders with EMS use. Patients with asthma who did not have a primary care physician were more likely to use EMS services than were those who had a physician.
This analysis highlights homelessness as being strongly associated with frequent EMS use among the elderly and downplays other associated factors, such as psychiatric disease and substance use. Medical illness severity, particularly asthma when no primary care physician is available, also appears to drive frequent EMS use. Both findings have implications in terms of targeting of public resources; providing housing to medically ill elderly and primary care to asthmatics in particular, may provide dividends not only in terms of social welfare and medical care, but in preventing frequent EMS use by the elderly.
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