q Non-Emergency Medical Transportation Critical for Improving Patient Health - Harcourt Health

Non-Emergency Medical Transportation Critical for Improving Patient Health

It’s a growing problem in the U.S. According to one study
by the Community Transportation Association, more than 3.6 million people miss
an appointment or put off going to see a doctor – simply because they don’t
have transportation. Sadly, 950,000 are children – many of whom are low-income.

In larger cities, there is access to affordable public
transit, but not everyone lives in a large urban area. And many are unable to
navigate public transportation due to disabilities. In some instances,
ambulances are used to transport patients to a doctor’s appointment, particularly
if they’re traveling from a nursing home. Other municipalities allow patients
to use a taxi, van, or private transport service to get to their appointments.
Unfortunately, many of those options don’t have a mobility van or the ability
to transport a patient who uses a wheelchair or one that requires a stretcher
van.

Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT) to the Rescue

Some patients on Medicare call an ambulance and go to an
emergency room when they can’t get to see their physician. This is extremely
costly and ends up tying up critical ambulance service that is for emergency
response. Studies show that by using non-emergency medical transportation instead
of an ambulance, Medicare can save about $367 per patient.  That’s a substantial figure, and other
studies show that NEMT is fifteen times less expensive than using an ambulance
to take a patient to an emergency room.

Private transport companies that use full-size
mobility vans
can take multiple patients to see physicians at one time,
saving even more money. Another study by Florida State University found that if
only one percent of all NEMT patient trips went to see a physician instead of
the emergency room, Florida would see a return of 1,108 percent on their
expenditure.

Improved Patient Outcomes

After surgery, many patients can’t drive. It may be due to
the surgical procedure, weakened muscles, or pain medication that prevents them
from driving, but an alternative arrangement must be available to provide
post-surgical care. Follow up appointments are critical to keeping patients
healthy, so providing transportation to the physician is essential.

By providing NEMT services, the outcome from the surgery is
far superior to those patients who do not receive follow-up care. Medicaid even
considers continual access to medical care and treatment a mandatory benefit.
Families that don’t have access to conversion vans or other types of transport
that can accommodate a wheelchair or stretcher can use service providers booked
through transportation brokers who utilize specialized smartphone apps or
software. These brokers not only can confirm that the patient is eligible for
the service; it can schedule the actual trip to the doctor.

Better Optimization for Transit Agencies

The software that brokers use can also ensure that the
provider has appropriate licensing and proper equipment to transport patients,
whether they have wheelchairs, mobility scooters, stretchers, or walkers. The
transit agency who uses the software the brokers provide helps to optimize the process
through a variety of ways. These include more efficient ride management,
optimized routes, real-time vehicle tracking, better rider experience, and full
reporting protocols.

One thing is clear: a more comprehensive NEMT system will
help provide healthier patients and reduce overall transport costs for the
agencies that serve this population. As healthcare evolves and providers move
out of clinical settings and travel to patients at their homes or care
facilities, more software-driven automated systems must be in place to manage
the logistics and track outcomes. Doing so will continue to reduce costs and
improve overall patient health.