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2020 EMS10 Winner Profile: Dana Cardenas, RN

Dana Cardenas, RN, is a well-deserving recipient of one of the 2020 EMS 10 Innovation Awards for her work on the Tempe (AZ) Fire Department’s Patient Advocate Service (PAS) Program. Cardenas, along with EMS Deputy Chief Nick Ells have worked to ensure that this system was created and is successful.  

EMS command staff initially started to visit frequent resource utilizers and then hired a nurse to help with these visits. Cardenas was then brought on to help in managing this growing program with her experience in starting some collaborative efforts for some community paramedicine programs. Partnerships with community non-profits, faith-based groups and other city departments helped this program grow. The outlook of the City of Tempe on having strong human services has helped this program flourish. During COVID-19, this program was able to help the vulnerable population that they already knew existed and had relationships with.  

Cardenas has been a nurse for 21 years and has a background in emergency medicine. Her nursing background is in the emergency department and has a position with a private ambulance service doing inter-facility ground transport for critical care transports in a rural area. This led to some 911 responses as well. This led her to move into EMS. When given the opportunity to join the Tempe Fire Department, she took it.  

Working on this project with Cardenas is Chief Ells. He has been with Tempe Fire for 16 years and has been in the fire service for 24 years. He started in the U.S. Air Force as a firefighter at 18 and was in the first EMT class on base. He responded to a high-speed rollover as his first call with his positive outcome. This inspired him to become a paramedic and is now deputy chief of EMS for Tempe Fire Department. He has a strong a drive to advocate for the quality of life of their citizens.  

The project the Tempe Fire Department spearheaded utilized data from ImageTrend solutions to have a 49% reduction in non-emergent calls in the PAS Program and affects 25 other performance measures set forth by the city including response time, insurance costs and crew availability. The city gives the department performance measures on goals to achieve. The first measurement was to bring down the number of responses to PAS by 50%. They are at 45% currently. This keeps first-line response resources in service for priority responses. The program has allowed a great deal of people enrolled in PAS to have many of their chronic issues resolved.

Tempe Fire Medical Rescue understands that its data is key to ensure their crews are responding appropriately to support a successful EMS and community paramedicine program and better serve the 190,000 residents of Tempe. Cardenas and the team used ImageTrend Elite to capture all incidents, including patient encounters. Tempe Fire then capitalized on a seamless integration between their community paramedicine program and EMS to coordinate the best possible care for Tempe patients.  

From there, Tempe Fire took full advantage of Report Writer to extract the data and put it to work for them by feeding it into their own predictive analysis model tools to realize key associations and make predictions with the goal of reducing non-emergent calls. These processes allow a list to be created from the data to have the PAS program visit these patient 

By the numbers, Tempe Fire has celebrated major successes in quantifying their call reductions for stakeholders. Their rolling six-month performance metric shows a 49% reduction in non-emergent calls in the PAS Program based off run forms that were completed.  

By focusing on the frequent utilizers of their emergency resources, Tempe Fire not only changed its reduction in non-emergent call volume, but also affected 25 other performance measures including response time, insurance costs and crew availability. None of this would be possible with their data analytics staff member, Dan Petty. Petty came to the city as an intern and was then hired full-time. Had a desire to complete projects he had started and not only works on the PAS program, but for the fire department. He can do a Care Assessment Needs report for patients to have prevention calls and enrollment in the PAS program. The goal is to have a long-term sustainable program. To date, they have been grant-funded. They are now a Medicaid Provider and are also enrolled as a VA provider. 

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