Advances in Community Paramedicine in Response to COVID-19

Citation

  • Batt, A.M., Hultink, A., Lanos, C., Tierney, B., Grenier, M., Heffern, J. (2021). Advances in Community Paramedicine in Response to COVID-19. Canadian Standards Association, Toronto, ON.

Executive Summary

Paramedics across Canada work collaboratively with other community partners to help ensure patients receive the services they require and the high quality in-home and in-community care they deserve. Community paramedicine programs aim to allow patients in all stages of life (e.g., older adults, persons with disabilities, persons living with chronic disease) to remain at home or in long-term care settings safely; decrease unnecessary 911 calls; decrease Emergency Department (ED) visits and length of hospital stay; educate and relieve stress for family and caregivers; and improve the quality of life of patients by keeping them actively engaged and informed. Community paramedic programs provide alternative models of care to improve support and access for vulnerable community members, including seniors and those living with chronic conditions.

The declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, and the subsequent public health measures across Canada demanded a change in service delivery models from many health care professions, including paramedics. This change particularly challenged community paramedicine programs in terms of meeting the needs of most vulnerable populations. Unfortunately, the pandemic highlighted the continued prevalence of social inequities in Canada, especially in already marginalized groups, and the importance of social connectedness and caregiver wellbeing solutions. In this research report, the results of a comprehensive literature review and a stakeholder engagement exercise across Canada were combined to provide insight into the innovations in service delivery, program focus, and the collaborative efforts of community paramedicine programs in response to COVID-19.

Community paramedicine programs have evolved to meet the needs of their communities. They have achieved this by responding to COVID-19 in collaboration with public health agencies; leveraging technology to facilitate remote monitoring and virtual visits; addressing social inequities in their communities, such as access to health care and social services; and by meeting the needs of vulnerable populations, who already faced issues in equity of access to services prior to the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the essential collaborative care role community paramedicine programs can provide to patients in their homes or communities. These programs have demonstrated their ability to support public health measures, provide home and community-based care, and most importantly, collaborate with other health care professionals in coordinating and providing care to Canadians regardless of social circumstances.