Already tasked with many responsibilities, firefighter duties are expanding in a few cities to include more medical care. Unlike tactical medical teams, where EMTs are given tactical skills to use on the scene, this medical attention occurs after an individual has been discharged from the hospital.

Firefighters participate in mobile health care programs 
Regions throughout Minnesota are taking part in pilot programs for mobile health care. Through a post-discharge firefighter visit, people recently released from the hospital receive house calls from firefighters to ensure they are transitioning smoothly away from full-time care. Fire departments check to see if patients are continuing treatments and filling their prescriptions. These first responders are also responsible for clarifying any information that patients may have missed when they were in pain or under medication while in the hospital.

“We can fill a gap here and say, ‘Did you understand? Let’s take a look at your prescription,'” St. Louis Park Fire Chief Steve Koering told The Minneapolis Star Tribune. “We’re there to bring some calm and answer questions. We can make people feel more secure in their home.”

Koering also noted that the fire department proactively made the choice to get involved with area hospitals. Frequently, people who have been recently discharged wind up calling 911 for assistance. Instead of rushing to help and using emergency resources, firefighters will now be able to address needs ahead of time and even prevent re-admittance to hospitals.

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The Minnesota program is similar to an effort in Dallas. There, the city’s Fire-Rescue department began providing non-emergency care to those who need it. Authorities hope that the program will allow emergency workers to save their resources for crises while also reducing stress on hospitals. If effective, mobile health care will save taxpayers money. The Dallas program will cost an estimated $600,000, significantly less than the expense of repeated emergency runs from paramedics.

Adequate training and resources are needed for success
Many of the tasks firefighters are asked to complete as part of the mobile health care programs involve basic medical care, like taking blood pressure. However, these first responders must undergo additional training to gain knowledge about prescriptions, physical therapy and best practices for rehabilitation, allowing them to provide appropriate insight and answer questions.

The current post-discharge firefighter visit pilot programs are limited in their application. Should it prove advantageous for both firefighters and patients, the strategy could spread to more hospitals and cities around the U.S. Encouraging communication and cooperation between fire departments and medical care providers can make a big difference in public safety operations. It is a way to save valuable time, money and resources while still serving the community.

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