Many patients around the world cannot access healthcare due to a lack of transportation. More than 3.6 million Americans skip their appointments and lab visits as there is no one to drive them or they have chronic conditions that deter them from self-driving. Specialty populations like the elderly or specially-abled are vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus, as they are not always able to drive.
Fortunately, non-emergency medical transportation or NEMT is emerging as a viable option to help people access medical care. The need for NEMT became prominent during COVID-19 when the whole world went into lockdown.
Healthcare providers, especially primary care providers, are considering NEMT services to their list of offerings. Being able to provide full-range care to your patients boosts not only profits but also improves health outcomes. Plus, caring for specialty populations at home is a preferred choice for family members.
Let's explore how and why non-emergency medical transportation services are a boon to patients.
How NEMT Helps Older Adults and Specialty Populations Achieve Better Health Outcomes
NEMT has been helping people access healthcare since its inception. A range of reasons can make a person unable to drive or access public transportation. Old age, absence of driver's license, lack of vehicles- the list is almost endless.
Additionally, it's not always possible to find someone to drive patients to the clinic or hospital. Older adults who live alone are either cognitively and/or functionally impaired. As a result, they miss appointments and other social events that are necessary to promote their health and well-being to have a normal life.
The situation got worse during the COVID-19 pandemic when everyone stayed indoors to fight the infection. Public transport experienced a shutdown, and all modes of traveling were closed. Patients and specialty populations were suffering as they missed out on important appointments and procedures like dialysis.
People were not ready to risk traveling in public transport, which could expose them to infected individuals.
Thankfully, NEMT came to the rescue and opened the doors to healthy outcomes. Apart from helping patients access home health care, NEMT also provided a safe means of transport for patients to do grocery shopping, visit a pharmacy, church, and other community social events.
NEMT became a safe recourse where patients could reach labs and clinics without worries. Providers were able to deliver home health services and serve the elderly and chronically ill population. They didn't need to step outside of their homes due to the home health care provisions and avoid visiting medical establishments for their appointments. Patients undergoing treatment for chronic diseases also benefited heavily from NEMT services. They could attend their doctor visits and get tests done at labs even with the home quarantine in place.
Additionally, home healthcare can help to deliver the necessary treatment to chronically ill patients who require immediate medical assessment within safe and convenient access to providers and resources. NEMT kept the healthcare industry going and helped deliver positive health outcomes during an emergency. The demand for NEMT has been increasing over the years. Transportation giants like Uber and Lyft have begun offering NEMT services in various parts of the USA. The high demand is visible, as Uber has expanded its NEMT network by 400% since 2016. Various states are taking the initiative and making NEMT a regular service for American citizens.
The benefits of NEMT services extend beyond providing access to healthcare. They are also responsible for helping the chronically ill and elderly patients lead a better life. According to a national survey, 3 out of 4 Americans aged 50 or more prefer staying at home as they age further. 77% of them prefer to live with their communities as long as they can.
NEMT can help older adults fulfill their medical and non-medical requirements by enabling in-home healthcare. From medical treatments to grocery delivery, non-medical emergency transportation services provide an overall upliftment for every community. Arrangements for long-distance non-medical emergency transportation for seniors living in rural areas are now easily accessible via NEMT services.
Accessing healthcare at the right time can help anyone stay healthy and fit. Additionally, it can reduce readmissions and long-term facility stay, therefore, reducing the excess expenses. We can expect more older adults to look forward to non-emergency medical transportation for living a safer, healthier, and pompous life.
Plus, it can also lower costs for low-income Americans who are unable to afford thousands of dollars worth of healthcare. Chronically-ill patients can attend their appointments and prevent visits to the emergency room. Proper treatment at the right time helps improve health and cuts down adverse outcomes. All of these save money and make NEMT a valuable service for chronic patients.
Advantages of NEMT for Primary Care Providers Offering Home Health Services
Positive health outcomes
Missed appointments are a cause of concern for patients and care providers. Not being able to attend treatment procedures can prevent patients from getting better. Regular check-ups are especially essential for patients suffering from chronic diseases. Care providers and patients can avail of the offer by NEMT services for delivering care and receiving treatment and ensure appointments are never delayed. A community with positive health outcomes will easily be able to achieve well-being. They will develop healthy behaviors, have better mental health, and live longer. As a result, our society will also be positively influenced.
In the USA, missed appointments cost the healthcare system a staggering $150 billion every year. For primary care providers running small healthcare clinics and businesses, the situation can put the whole business at risk. NEMT can help you overcome this barrier and ensure your patients receive the best possible care. Primary care providers can also deliver at-home care and add extra revenues to their practices. Some companies also tie-up with hospitals and clinics to boost profits. Providing services in rural areas enhances better healthcare provision for people living in these places. Statistics also show NEMT brings huge returns on investments. In Florida, every $1 spent for NEMT brings back $11.08. In the case of Missouri, it's $7.68.
Provide better health care at home
Between 2015 to 2018, 32 US states reported a total of 59,000,000 trips. Patients took the assistance of NEMT services for preventive care, psychological health, specialist appointments, and more. During COVID-19, NEMT services stayed in high demand. According to FSSA, they operated at 80% of the trip demand they experienced before coronavirus. Even during periods of lowest demand, the percentage dipped to only 50%. Many states like Wisconsin continued to serve patients through NEMT services all during the pandemic. Patients want safe and hygienic modes of transport to reach healthcare providers or receive better care via home healthcare. The need for the services will stay high as 22% of the USA's population will be over 65 by 2050.
Better reputation and growth
Healthcare providers that offer a full package of services fare better than their competitors. You don't need to shuffle your patients between a host of services by offering NEMT. People are always looking for the best in healthcare, so here is your opportunity to outshine the competition. Your clients will get more satisfaction and recommend your services with full confidence.
Probable Challenges Faced by Primary Care Providers
Here are some common challenges in the way of providing home health services and how to overcome them:
Lack of fleet
You will need to control a fleet of vehicles to provide NEMT or at-home medical services. Additionally, your vehicles will need to be equipped and wheelchair-friendly to meet state regulations. Most primary care providers can't afford to buy so many vehicles or operate a fleet. You need a big investment and a proper team to manage your operations.
Therefore, various transportation companies offer on-demand NEMT services for care providers. You can tie up with them and offer world-class medical care. This is a simple and cost-effective solution for all providers.
Lack of coordination
Managing your home visits and NEMT rides can become challenging, especially for big teams. It's not easy to track who is where if you are operating even 50 vehicles. Plus, you have to coordinate your trips to your patient needs and schedules. You can use non-emergency medical transportation scheduling software to manage your home visits and pickups. Plus, you can also streamline workflow and boost productivity.
Owning your fleet, paying drivers, hiring staff- all of these run up huge costs. You also have to spend on maintenance of your fleet and equipment. You will need to pay wages for all your NEMT staff. However, not everyone can pay out huge sums for fleet maintenance. You can work with NEMT partners who provide you with the resources to save your upfront investment. You can pay-as-you-go and keep your costs in control.
At-home visits are going to be in high demand post-COVID. Prepare your business for offering non-emergency medical transportation for seamless reliability and flexibility into your business. You should always work with a reliable partner to ensure the best health outcomes for your patients.