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MedStar Making House Calls For Medicare Patients

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Joel Thomas
Joel is an Emmy Award winning journalist with more than 15 year...
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CBS DFW (con't)

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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – John Farris has been answering emergency calls as a paramedic for 10 years.  But the MedStar employee always wished he didn’t have to be on the scene after a medical condition put the patient in danger.

“I always wanted to figure out a way to prevent that 911 call, prevent the need for us to come in that critical situation,” Farris said.

Today, Farris’s job is to prevent people like Clara Sullivan from going to the hospital.

Sullivan, in her Late 70’s, has congestive heart failure. She’s been in and out of the hospital. Those repeat visits cost the medical system tens of thousands of dollars.

“If a patient with congestive heart failure gets readmitted to the hospital or is seen in the emergency room again within 30 days, the hospital and all of the people involved in that patient’s care are not eligible for reimbursement from Medicare,” said MedStar spokesman Matt Zavadsky.

So, MedStar has begun a first-of-its-kind program to prevent returns to the hospital.

Once a patient has been referred to the program. Paramedics routinely check on recently released patients in their homes.

They look at vital signs, diet, medication and bring medical care to the patient.  Often, the care can be as simple as more thoroughly explaining instructions given by physicians.

In a year long trial of patients like Sullivan, the program saved $38,000 dollars a people in medical costs.

The same program was applied to 43 patients who routinely called 9-1-1 (at least 15 times within a 90 day period). MedStar estimated the program saved 930 ambulance trips and saved $26,000 per patient.

For Sullivan, who suffers achy joints, it saves her painful trips to her doctor.

“Its very convenient for me,” Lean said. “The doctors I go to are downtown. And I usually have a hard night the day I go. These guys are fantastic. They really are.

“It really is a dream to help these patients in an aspect I couldn’t on an ambulance,” Farris said.

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