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9 Overlooked Areas in EMS Operations That Could be Hurting Your Margins

Image Credit: NSW Ambulance

As owners and operators of emergency and non-emergency medical services, we get it. Running an EMS organization is tough business.

Profit margins are thin. Your cash flow is often at the mercy of timely Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurer reimbursements, patients who don’t pay their bills, and even municipal budgets.  Even if you are diligent about following the rules, most of you get tripped up by some silly new or obscure regulation.

While most organizations focus on revenues by increasing collections rate, and understandably so, they often overlook many other areas that can help improve their top and bottom lines. 

Here are 9 areas in EMS operations that could be hurting your margins and how to improve them.

1. Eliminate Data Transfers or Software Integration

A typical EMS organization uses 3+ different systems fro help run operations. For instance, one system for ePCR, another for CAD, and another for Billing.

However, it’s extremely challenging to have multiple systems function cohesively. You’re left with two options: invest in costly integrations that likely break whenever there’s a new update to any system in the chain, or require your staff to perform constant import/exports and/or manual data entries. You also have to consider software integration strategy, available integration interface options, and how these affect current systems.

To eliminate costly integrations and time-consuming data transfers, we recommend using an EMS system that is complete and comprehensive.

2. Integrate with Insurance Providers

Does your staff have to hunt down information on who and where to send your invoices? This burdensome task can be eliminated if your EMS system integrates with insurance providers.

With this integration, you can verify demographic, address, and other critical information with a database of insurance companies. It virtually eliminates the risk of sending a bill to the incorrect payor or address because of outdated or incomplete information. Not only will this save your staff precious time and avoid frustration, your invoices are more likely to be paid in a timely fashion.

3. Compile Reports Using a Single Source of Truth

How long does it take you to generate a report? Do you have to export data from multiple systems and compile it in Microsoft Excel EVERY TIME you wish to generate a report? Or do you use a third-party business intelligence platform that aggregates all these data together? What do you do when you see different data in different systems?

The alternative is to have all the data in one place at the start (see www.traumasoft.com). You don’t have to match columns and rows from different Excel sheets from different systems. You won’t have to hunt down the correct information when you realize that one system has a different data than another system. In short, you won’t have to spend hours or days to compile a report. You’ll have dramatically improved visibility into operations, enabling you and your staff to make more accurate, timely decisions.

At Traumasoft, we enable extensive reporting. We’ve built hundreds of reports from for our 200+ customers.  Those reports are all available to you, so the report you need may already have already been built. We also share the most useful reports from our customer base as templates to help you build the report you need.

4. Maintain Your Fleet with Automated Notifications

From time to time, we encounter EMS organizations that still use pencil and paper to manage their fleet of vehicles. If you don’t stay on top of those notes, it is easy to lose track and miss scheduled maintenance or other critical tasks, making fleet maintenance more costly over time.

Instead, you can use automated notifications to remind you when it’s time for vehicle maintenance. With these notifications, your mechanic(s) won’t miss maintenance schedules even when they’re buried in work. Equally as important is the ability to customize and incorporate fleet maintenance into your mechanic’s work processes.  Lastly, CAD integration is critical to avoid scheduling vehicles during maintenance windows.

5. Maintain Equipment and Manage Warranty Information

Equipment maintenance is another area that can become costly when proper attention is not given. The same processes needed for fleet maintenance are required for equipment assets like heart monitors and stretchers. The ability to track individual equipment and its warranty information is imperative. If equipment breaks, you need quick access to its warranty information.

6. Reducing Rides Not Loaded with Patients with Trip Schedulers

Empty vehicle rides can be a big problem for non-emergency medical transport providers. Fixed expenses like insurance and maintenance, as well as variable costs like gas and crew expenses can add up quickly. Margins get squeezed even tighter if the problem persists.

Empty rides can be reduced significantly with an integrated trip scheduler. It is essential that trip scheduler is integrated with CAD so data about the vehicles’ schedule is readily available and updated in real-time. Traumasoft takes this further to offer Trip Assistant, Trip Planner, and Trip Brokerage, where third parties requesting a transport can log into their portal and check transport schedule and availabilities. To take this even further, Traumasoft offers RealTime Routes, where AI is used for automated real-time routing to maximize your transport’s on-road utilization. All of this translates to fewer vehicles on the road performing the same or more volume of work.

7. Use a Robust, Integrated Billing System

As mentioned in #1 above, using separate systems cost you time, money, or both. For instance, if your ePCR and CAD are separate from Billing, you have to constantly move, clean, export and import data just to keep operating.

Besides that, you need a robust software system that performs most of the mundane tasks that can overwhelm you and your staff. For instance, instead of having to manually mark hundreds of accounts as paid in one sitting, batch posting can automate that for you, saving time and reducing human errors. Another is deductible management, which allows you to check a patient’s deductible and optionally wait to bill their insurer until their deductible has been met, thereby dramatically increasing your chances of reimbursement. Ultimately, these billing technologies can help you eliminate inefficiencies and increase your top and bottom line.

8. Offer a Web Portal for Billing and Scheduling

Do patients have to engage your staff when they pay? What about those that are trying to schedule an ambulance transport?

By offering a web portal for patients to pay, you can eliminate some of the manual effort of your staff and offer a payment alternative that many patients prefer. Furthermore, electronic payments eliminate the mailing and “payment processing” time required to process a check. Electronic payments via the portal are posted to your patient’s account programmatically in the billing system. In other words, patient accounts are reconciled automatically with no effort on your part.

The same goes with vehicle scheduling. When you offer a web portal, your customers can simply login and schedule a transport themselves. They no longer need to follow-up on the scheduled transport, and completely eliminates the frustrating experience of being put on hold while the transport is confirmed.  For this to work, the web portal must integrate with the CAD system so transport availability can be displayed and updated in real-time. Not only will this free up your staff’s time for more important tasks, you’re also helping your organization become the preferred transport provider with a superior scheduling experience.

9. Provide a Customized Workflow for Your Staff

Does your staff spend time looking for things to do? Can they tell which tasks are high priority? Do you know what tasks they completed and when?

Having a documented workflow can solve all those questions. To understand workflow, imagine these scenarios:

  • Your controller receives a notification that a check needs to be mailed out in 30 days. Workflow will remind your controller again in a few days if the check has not been mailed, depending on your customization.
  • Every morning, your claims processor sees a list of to-dos with their respective priorities. You can follow-up on these tasks by running a report to see which ones are complete or incomplete.
  • Your mechanic receives a notification to replace a battery (based on number of days or miles that you customize), and a work order for that is automatically created.

Workflow keeps track of what tasks needs to be done and in what order. It allows your staff to focus on what needs to be done. It reminds you when something urgently needs attention. It frees up the need for micromanager oversight.

Some EMS software vendors offer workflows require that you follow their “best practice”. With Traumasoft allows, you customize your workflows to fit your unique business processes.

Conclusion

Because many EMS organizations focus on cash collection, they often overlook many operational areas that bleed cash. By following the suggestions provided here, you can improve your operational efficiency and therefore, your bottom line.

Further, some suggestions here, when implemented, will also improve your revenue collection rate. For instance, integration with insurance companies and offering web portal to patients can greatly increase billing information accuracy, leading to fewer claims.denials. Also, workflow notifications allow your staff to focus on high priority receivables before they become 60-90 days delinquent.

If you’re looking to improve your operational efficiency and increase your revenues and bottom line, Traumasoft can help. Schedule a demo now to see how.