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Fire Department expands program to prevent repeat hospital visits
Preventative house calls

Fire Department expands program to prevent repeat hospital visits

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RACINE — The Racine Fire Department is working with a second area health care system in an effort to help prevent local residents from being readmitted to local hospitals.

In November 2018, RFD partnered with Ascension Health to start the Mobile Integrated Health program. And, in the last month, the Fire Department has expanded the program by working with Advocate Aurora Health patients.

Through MIH, paramedics make home visits to people recently released from the hospital. During those visits, the paramedics ensure the patients are following their discharge instructions, check their vital signs, provide long-term health guidance (regarding diet, exercise, quitting smoking, etc.), and check the home for potential health risks, such as tripping hazards. If the paramedics find anything alarming regarding the home or patient’s health, the patient’s doctor is immediately notified.

In 2018, the Racine Fire Department made 451 of these visits. That number is expected to grow in the coming years, especially since paramedics will now be responding to patients from Advocate Aurora in addition to Ascension.

Other than the time spent checking up on the patients, the Fire Department isn’t really losing resources on due to Mobile Integrated Health. The program has been funded by Ascension Health, and now will also be funded by Aurora Advocate.

When successful, these quick visits can often prevent readmissions to the hospital, which in turn is expected to reduce the ambulance call volume for the Fire Department. Fire Chief Steve Hansen said that the Fire Department’s call volume has increased by nearly 30% in 14 years, even though the city’s population has dropped by more than 3% during that same time span.

That sharp rise in calls “being driven by folks who don’t really know how to take care of themselves,” Hansen said. During home visits and ambulance trips, Hansen said paramedics will try to teach patients on how to better look after their own health.

“It’s an educational problem,” Hansen said. “Sometimes people are very receptive to that information. Sometimes they are not.”

Changing landscape

Ascension All Saints Hospital at 3801 Spring St. has long been the only hospital on the east side of Racine County. However, Advocate Aurora, which is based in Milwaukee, is moving in on what had been Ascension’s territory for hospital care.

A 96-acre Aurora Medical Center is planned to be built near the intersection of Interstate 94 and Highway in Mount Pleasant. It is expected to open in 2022 and is to include emergency and inpatient services, two clinics focused on primary care, and a medical office building.

A second, albeit smaller, Advocate Aurora Health location is also planned for South Green Bay Road near Regency Mall. That clinic’s grand opening is planned for fall 2020 and will offer primary care, urgent care, and onsite laboratory and X-ray services.

Ascension is also expanding its operations with a $42 million medical center now under construction at the northeast corner of Highway 20 and Renaissance Boulevard in Sturtevant.

Froedtert also is moving in, with plans for its own 41.25-acre medical center, also near the intersection of Highway 20 and I-94.

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