Centra offers new mobile program to help keep patients out of hospital

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LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) -- Paramedics in Lynchburg are working to help patients stay away from the hospital. Centra's new Community Paramedic Program is the first mobile unit of its kind in the region.

The program officially launched at the beginning of the year and paramedics say they've doubled the amount of patients they're seeing. "We can go into their home and assist with any needs and concerns that they have 24/7," explained James Mitchell, a supervisor at Centra.

Mitchell has served as a paramedic for 28 years. He helped launch the Community Paramedic Program: A team of four who help patients who are a high risk of readmittance, "COPD, CHF, Hypertension and diabetes are the big four," explained Mitchell.

He says they've seen about a 65 percent success rate of keeping those patients out of the hospital.

Here's how it works: For about four to six weeks, a paramedic will visit with the patient. Services could include taking them to the doctors or addressing issues at home; which comes in handy for those with mobility limitations. "We've even gone as far as being able to set up the resources to build wheelchair ramps on their houses to go in and identify a need for handrail and bars and safety hazards, trip hazards on their house. So, we truly look at it as a holistic picture," he said.

Mitchell says the program is free to Centra patients.

He says that helping to keep patients at home, not only creates a better life for them, but also cuts down on ER and hospital visits and additional calls for EMS. "Taking care of the folks that need long-term management opens up the rest of system to provide better care for the rest of the patients," he explained.