Just one year after piloting an innovative medical program through the Beverly Hills Fire Department (BHFD), the City is poised to expand its Nurse Practitioner Unit (NPU) to service residents seven days a week. While the program’s reactive (911- based) component is not novel, its proactive approach (patient home visits) to care is very much a new and unique way to provide public health services.
“The spirt of said response is to visit residents before they reach the emergent medical state in which 911 is called,” said BHFD Chief Gregory W. Barton. He noted that multiple government and healthcare entities were currently evaluating the components of Beverly Hills’ program, which via its integration into the Fire Department is having a multifaceted impact on patients’ healthcare. “It is becoming more evident that programs akin to the NPP (Nurse Practitioner Program) will become a standard response for Fire Departments.”
As part of the NPU’s proactive approach, in addition to treating patients “in the field” and providing them services that they would otherwise receive at urgent care facilitates, the program is
structured to facilitate preventive care. With each home visit, the NPU provides a comprehensive assessment, identifies current and potential future medical ailments, and gauges health risks. Subsequently, the NPU communicates with the patient’s primary care provider, specialists, ancillary medical providers, and medical networks for follow-up treatment. The NPU also follows up with patients referred from Cedars-Sinai Health System.
“The Beverly Hills Nurse Practitioner program is an innovative approach to support the health of our community,” said City Councilman Julian Gold, M.D., former co-chair of the Department of Anesthesiology at Cedars-Sinai. Gold helped pioneer the program by working with the Fire Department to refine the concept and add the element of proactive care. “By treating patients at home and keeping them out of emergency rooms, we will improve the care to some of our most vulnerable residents, at the same time reducing overall healthcare costs.”
Longtime Beverly Hills resident Ronee Berns, who moved to Rodeo Drive in 1978, praised the NPU’s response to an accident in December 2019 where a neighbor sideswiped her while she was getting out of her car.
“I’m lucky I’m still alive,” Berns told the Courier, underscoring that she was “bleeding profusely” before Nurse Practitioner Theresa Simmons bandaged her up. “I didn’t even have to go to the hospital because of them.”
Beverly Hills Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Administrator Sean Stokes told the Courier he estimated the program would be operational seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. starting in late March. The program currently operates four days a week with a nurse practitioner and a firefighter paramedic (FF/PM), but will add two additional nurse practioners and an additional FF/PM as it expands.
Since launching in January 2019, the NPU has made over 300 patient contacts, and provided approximately 700 hours of healthcare in the field according to a staff report. Stokes told the Courier that of the approximately 8,000 calls to 911 last year, around 5,000 were EMS related. About 45 percent of those EMS calls were for patients age 65 and older and 75 percent were for patients age 45 and older.
“We have such a large senior community,” said Simmons, who has been with the program since its launch. “[The program] has allowed us to identify a lot of of patients who have chronic needs in our community … people who are borderline unsafe. … We’re finding that our proactive approach will be the greatest benefit to the community safely aging in place.”
Currently, there is no charge to residents who utilize the NPU, although that may change in the future, Simmons said.