Wisconsin legislation may expand role of paramedics

By Hillary Gavan, Beloit Daily News

BELOIT — Following the passage of Wisconsin State Assembly Bill 151 (AB 151) on April 4, paramedics and emergency medical technicians are one step closer to being able to offer services outside of an emergency setting.

For example, those with emergency medical services training would be able to give follow-up visits to people discharged from a hospital under the medical direction of a physician. They would also be able to work with the local hospital to provide community paramedicine care or chronic disease management. They might also work on community health initiatives such as safe newborn sleeping education, according to information from legislative aide Danielle Zimmerman.

The new bill, approved with bipartisan support, was authored by Rep. Amy Loudenbeck (R-Clinton) and Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point).

Zimmerman said Loudenbeck and Shankland had been working on the bill for 18 months. Currently, those treated by paramedics can either go to the hospital with them or sign a waiver declining care. With the new bill, there will be many more options for using paramedic service.

Currently, there is a pilot program underway between UW hospitals in Madison and the Madison Fire Department where paramedics follow up on patients discharged from the hospital.

The service community, Zimmerman said, has been looking at similar programs for four years.

Such programs are hoped to potentially save healthcare dollars as there may be fewer hospital readmissions and emergency room visits. It may also bridge gaps in healthcare in rural areas with healthcare worker shortages or be helpful to those with a lack of transportation.

AB 151 passed the Assembly on the April 4 unanimously and is waiting for public hearing in the senate.

“Over the last 18 months, we have worked with several stakeholder groups to create a bill that we believe encourages partnerships to provide quality care for people all across Wisconsin. We wanted to find balance while providing flexibility for these programs to truly reflect the needs that each individual community faces,” said Loudenbeck.