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Editorial: Green Bay after-care program worth exploring

9:30 PM, Apr. 22, 2013  |  Comments
Training video: New 'Hook and Ladder' house call s...
Training video: New 'Hook and Ladder' house call s...: April 22: The Green Bay Metro Fire Department prepared this video to help prepare firefighters for the new “Hook and Ladder” house call service with discharged Bellin Hospital patients. (Submitted video)
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Bellin Hospital and the Green Bay Fire Department have started a unique partnership that might pay dividends in reduced medical costs.

The Hook and Ladder program illustrates the type of innovation needed in today's world of increasing health care costs and busy lives.

Patients discharged from Bellin Hospital can sign up for a program in which fire department team would make a house call a couple of days later to check on the patient. The team would also provide a safety inspection, which could pay dividends for those patients with nonworking smoke detectors, for example.

The patient must live in Allouez or Green Bay, the municipalities covered by the fire department. But officials hope the program will succeed and spread.

The idea is to prevent readmission to the hospital, which can be costly, which then reduces ambulance calls.

The savings in cost alone makes the program worthwhile. But the program helps keep the patient on someone's radar. If you've ever left the hospital and the well-wishers stopped checking up on you, or if you've ever left the hospital and were unsure about your medication, this program will be able to help.

The fire department's training video shows personnel showing a "patient" how to check on appointments on the laptop and checking to see if medication is being taken. These tasks might be commonplace and easy for some patients, but they could be a huge impediment to those less sure and reluctant to ask for help.

The fire department personnel are not doctors or nurses - though about 100 of them are paramedics and the rest are EMTs - so they won't offer a diagnosis or medical advice. But they will file a report afterward with Bellin detailing what they saw and listing any concern. From there the hospital can decide what to do next, if anything.

"It's way of making sure they're doing the things to stay on the path to recovery," said fire chief Michael Nieft.

The Hook and Ladder program is new and officials will re-evaluate it after 25 visits, but it has had a promising start. Nieft said one patient wanted to pay the firefighters. During another call, the team found the patient couldn't hear her smoke detector's tone, so they installed one that gave a verbal warning.

Firefighters' main job is still responding to emergency calls, so some appointments might be disrupted. However, the city and the hospital are to be commended for looking at ways to make sure patients discharged don't slip through the cracks and for looking at ways to lower health care costs.

In the meantime, the firefighters are spreading some goodwill, meeting and getting to know the people they serve. And that can't hurt.

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