How a City Dramatically Improved Care for the Chronically Ill

Milwaukee's Community Paramedic Mobile Integrated Healthcare Program succeeded in reducing 911 calls from the chronically ill by 62 percent.


Ambulances parked at NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan

(Leonard Zhukovsky /

In 2015, the Milwaukee fire department realized that 7 percent of the 62,736 calls for emergency medical services it received the year before were coming from the same 100 people. These people were those who suffer from chronic illnesses such as asthma, diabetes, congestive heart failure, and pulmonary diseases.

As a way to ease the burden on the department and offer better care to its patients, the Community Paramedic Mobile Integrated Healthcare Program was launched in the fall of 2015. By the end of the pilot period, calls from these patients dropped by 26 percent. In 2016, they fell by 56 percent, and then 62 percent in 2017.

Today, the program has 34 specialized paramedics who are trained in managed care and knowledgeable in these chronic illnesses. The paramedics do home visits and asses the patients, giving them the tools to prevent situations from escalating into emergencies. This saves countless preventable and expensive trips to the Emergency Room.

The paramedics also check smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, promote firearms safety and look for other hazards, such as "slip and fall" areas in the home.

Captain Michael Wright, who spearheaded the project, told JS Online, “I see it firsthand, people are getting better.” They are giving the chronically ill the ability to manage their illnesses and prevent emergency situations.

Rather than waiting for emergencies, they are proactive. This program has improved health and care but at a lower cost. It is the first of its kind, and is making waves in Wisconsin State Legislature, which now allows paramedics to perform in “non-emergency environments.”

"The goal is better health and better care at a lower cost," said Milwaukee Fire Department Chief Mark Rohlfing, "We're serving the most at-risk citizens in a proactive way."

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