NAMIHP understands the vital role MIH and community paramedics play in improving the health of entire communities. Fragmentation and silos in the healthcare system lead to well-known gaps in care, but cohesion isn’t happening soon. Community paramedics play a vital role in reaching people where they are with the care they need.
At NAMIHP, we want to elevate the profession of community paramedicine to reflect the quality and value of the services provided. Enhancing education and developing standardization across programs is one way to do that. This month, we talk about learning opportunities for MIH professionals.
How Community Paramedicine Can Benefit from Standardized Education
With an aging population and efforts to reduce costs, keeping people at home and out of the hospital is paramount. Community paramedics – individually and as part of mobile integrated health (MIH) teams – bridge gaps in access to care and help reduce unnecessary transports and hospitalizations.
However, recognition in the broader healthcare community often doesn’t align with the value offered. Having a standard education program that all community paramedics complete is one way to elevate the field on par with other healthcare providers. It gives payers and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) a basis to measure quality of care and breadth of services provided. That bolsters efforts to improve compensation to match the value provided.
Current Challenges in Education
As of now, community paramedicine requirements vary across states and even across cities or counties. Some programs require Board Certification, while others create and provide their own training based on their community needs assessment. One city may need more focus on addiction, while another program may have more need for chronic disease management or mental health. Although these differences highlight the adaptability of community paramedicine teams to meet community needs, it creates national inconsistency in skillsets and competency.
MIH programs need to allow for flexibility in training and background to account for each community. However, compensation is set at the national level. That’s where the lack of standardized requirements undermines efforts to match compensation to the services provided. Without a baseline of demonstrated competencies, CMS and national payers have little to go on to compare community paramedics with nurses, therapists, physicians or other health professionals.
Steps Toward Standardizing Education
Any education program or set of standards should provide a baseline level of competencies, exposure to a wide range of healthcare scenarios, and have flexibility to adapt to community programs.
Multiple organizations have been developing programs to help fill this gap.
· Community Paramedicine Board Certification. One of the most readily available measures of education, this exam aims to measure competencies in Community Paramedicine and serves as a foundational competency demonstration for the growing MIH industry. Community paramedics serve as the backbone personnel for nearly all MIH teams nationwide, and Board Certification goes a long way in validating the quality of care provided in MIH models. The certification lasts 4 years.
· NAMIHP Training & Education Roadmap-Community Paramedicine Core Competencies. NAMIHP has developed a set of core competencies recommended for educational programs to train community paramedics. These recommendations cover an overview of MIH programs, community needs assessments, client interactions, and clinical competencies. The goal is to prepare community paramedics and MIH programs to fill gaps in care and bridge the siloes inherent in the U.S. healthcare system to ensure communities receive appropriate care when needed at a safe location.
· Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems (CAMTS). CAMTS has developed a set of voluntary standards for accreditation of MIH programs. These standards help define the role of MIH and lay out a structure and requirements for programs to serve their communities safely and effectively. The MIH standards include a heavy focus on educational competencies for community paramedics and other healthcare providers within paramedicine and MIH programs.
Creating a standardized set of educational competencies is one way to elevate the field of community paramedicine, provide a basis for compensation negotiations, and ensure practitioners are prepared with the skills needed for the growing field of MIH.