Evaluation of California’s Community Paramedicine Pilot Program


Janet M. Coffman, Cynthia Wides, Lisel Blash,Ginachukwu Amah, Igor Geyn and Matthew Niedzwiecki

Aug. 06, 2019

Community paramedicine, also known as mobile integrated health, is an innovative model of care that is being implemented throughout the United States. The California Emergency Medical Services Authority has sponsored a pilot project under which specially trained paramedics perform duties beyond their traditional roles of responding to 911 calls, transporting patients to emergency departments and performing inter-facility transfers. Healthforce Center at UCSF is conducting an evaluation of the pilot project that was funded by the California Health Care Foundation.

In January 2017, Healthforce Center released a report that presented findings from the evaluation for the first 16 months of the pilot project. Four updates to the report were released that reflected new data from the pilot projects. The latest update to the report, which was released in August 2019, presents findings from the time the initial group of pilot projects began enrolling patients (June 2015 to October 2015) through March 2019.

Under the pilot, community paramedics provide:

  • Short-term follow-up care after hospital discharge for people with chronic conditions
  • Case management services to frequent users of the emergency medical services (EMS) system
  • Directly observed therapy for people with tuberculosis
  • Collaboration with hospice nurses to reduce unwanted transports of hospice patients to an ED
  • Transportation for people with mental health needs to mental health crisis centers
  • Transportation for people who are acutely intoxicated to sobering centers
  • Transportation for patients with low-acuity medical conditions to urgent care centers

The evaluation found that community paramedics are collaborating successfully with physicians, nurses, behavioral health professionals and social workers to fill gaps in the health and social services safety net. The evaluation has yielded consistent findings for six of the seven community paramedicine concepts tested. All of the post-discharge, frequent 911 users, tuberculosis, hospice, and alternate destination – mental health projects have been in operation for at least two and one half years and have improved patients’ well-being. In most cases, they have yielded savings for payers and other parts of the health care system. Findings regarding outcomes of a project testing the sixth concept, alternate destination – sobering center, suggest that this project is also benefitting patients and the health care system over the course of its first 14 months. The seventh concept, alternate destination – urgent care, shows potential but further research involving a larger volume of patients is needed to draw definitive conclusions.