Paramedic Visits with Seniors Citizens Result in
Less EMS Calls and Emergency Room Trips
Community health awareness delivered by paramedics
leads to 32 percent reduction in EMS calls
Oct. 20, 2013 - Emergency Medical Service (EMS)
staff are accustomed to responding to emergencies, especially for senior
citizens. A study presented today at the Canadian Cardiovascular
Congress finds they may be able to prevent many emergencies as well,
judging by the preliminary success of a pilot project at a Hamilton
building for seniors.
The subsidized housing complex in the study has
about 280 residents, predominantly low income seniors. It's a group at
increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and falls. The local
EMS receives frequent calls from the building.
As a pilot, two paramedics provided weekly drop-in
sessions to review healthy lifestyles, measure blood pressure and assess
diabetes risk and risk of falls.
Preliminary data shows a trend of up to 32 per cent
reduction in EMS calls from the single building in which the program was
offered, since the sessions began.
"As members of the health team on the front line,
paramedics can play a valuable role in reducing the risk and improving
the health of seniors," says Dr. Gina Agarwal, associate professor in
the department of family medicine at McMaster University.
The sessions were well attended, with an average of
25 per cent of residents over age 65 participating during the project's
More than 60 per cent of the residents who attended
the sessions had an elevated body mass index, 40 per cent reported a low
level of physical activity, one-third smoked, one-third had a high salt
intake, one-third had a high fat intake, and 50 per cent had high blood
Of the senior residents with high blood pressure,
80 per cent were already on medication for it. With their permission,
the readings were conveyed to their family doctors, who could then take
action like adjusting medication.
"The paramedics discussed one or two risk factors,
such as smoking, lack of exercise or diet at each visit, tried to link
residents to community resources and give advice, and then followed up
to see how residents were managing," says Dr. Agarwal.
Paramedics made many referrals to the complex's
in-house wellness exercise program, diabetes foot care and education
program, and to residents' family doctors. They also made linkages with
community food advisors and the quit smoking line.
"With their regular presence thanks to the weekly
schedule, the paramedics seem approachable," says Dr. Agarwal. "The
number of new attendees keeps rising, with word of mouth. The high
number of multiple visits also indicates a hunger for this type of
health information when it's so readily available."
"Communication is the key here. Discussing
preventive behaviors and making the advice accessible is important for
people of all age groups and backgrounds," says Heart and Stroke
Foundation spokesperson Dr. Beth Abramson. "Community-based health
programs like this can be a very effective way to promote good health
and prevent chronic conditions. We can all learn from this experience."
Dr. Agarwal says the study will follow up to assess
whether the risk profile of the session attendees has evolved.
The study was carried out by the department of
family medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, in collaboration
with Hamilton Paramedics Service, City of Hamilton Public Health, City
Housing Hamilton, and the Community Care Access Centre.
The Canadian Cardiovascular Congress is co-hosted
by the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Cardiovascular
The Heart and Stroke Foundation's mission is to
prevent disease, save lives and promote recovery. A volunteer-based
health charity, we strive to tangibly improve the health of every
Canadian family, every day. 'Healthy lives free of heart disease and
stroke. Together we will make it happen.'
HSF spokesperson Beth Abramson is the author of the
newly released book Heart Health for Canadians.
Vascular 2013 is a unique, one-time Canadian event
bringing four separate scientific meetings together under one roof: the
Canadian Cardiovascular Congress, the Canadian Diabetes
Association/Canadian Society of Endocrinology and Metabolism
Professional Conference, the Canadian Stroke Congress and the Canadian
It is a joint initiative of the Canadian
Cardiovascular Society, Canadian Diabetes Association/Canadian Society
of Endocrinology and Metabolism, the Canadian Stroke Network, the Heart
and Stroke Foundation, and Hypertension Canada.
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