New rural health program in Champaign County brings visiting nurse to patient’s home

Mercy Health-Urbana Hospital is in partnership with several local agencies to reach residents at their homes. Bill Lackey/Staff
Mercy Health-Urbana Hospital is in partnership with several local agencies to reach residents at their homes. Bill Lackey/Staff

A new community oriented health program in Champaign County seeks to better reach patients at their homes using several partners.

The Community Paramedicine Rural Health Pilot Program was launched this month and is a partnership between Mercy Health-Urbana Hospital and Urbana Fire and EMS providers.

“We are trying to tie all these entities together under one unit that can be sort of dispatched by our (community paramedicine program) by going to someone’s home,” said Wade Smith, a Mercy Health emergency department medical director.

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In order to accomplish that, a visiting nurse has been selected by Mercy Health to visit those recommended for the program.

The program launched at the beginning of the month. It will be funded for three years and is sustained by a $225,000 grant secured through the Ohio Department of Health’s Community Paramedicine Rural Health Pilot Program.

It is part of a larger effort to create a health care model where paramedics and EMTs work with nurses to bring primary care and preventive services to people in the community, said Jamie Houseman, president of Urbana Hospital, in a news release.

That’s something representatives of the hospital network say is important, especially for rural communities in Champaign County that have an aging population dealing with chronic diseases such as as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and neurological and respiratory disorders.

That demographic might also have difficulty accessing regular primary care and preventive services due to geographic distance, lack of transportation and financial challenges.

“We want to bring all those factors together and bring them to the patient instead of the patient having to go to the emergency department to find those services,” Smith said.

A qualified nurse will go to patients to determine what their needs are and how to best accommodate them. A number of people tend to come to emergency departments because they do not know where else to go, Smith said.

The goal is to intercept some people who use emergency department services often by addressing their health needs sooner. That includes addressing barriers that might prevent some patients from seeing their primary care physician.

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The hope is that as the program grows, more patients will be referred, including by physicians who practice emergency medicine as well as by other health care providers in the community.

Urbana Fire Chief Dean Ortlieb said that the idea is to serve more than just residents of Urbana by partnering with entities throughout Champaign County.

He said they want to connect the dots and make sure patients have the knowledge as well as access to services that allow them to better monitor their health.

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