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Making the Journey Part of Engagement

Wednesday, July 11, 2018
By Dhruv Vasishtha and Geri Lynn Baumblatt


Non-Emergency Medical Transportation: A new opportunity for patient engagement

A core challenge health systems and services providers face in patient engagement is attention. Thinking about one’s health care proactively requires thinking about one’s mortality, and who wants to do that?
Consequently, most patient engagement and patient experience centers around the few moments when people are required to think about their health: medical appointments, hospitalizations, discharges, and pharmacy visits.
Lately, a new touchpoint in the care journey is emerging as an important opportunity to build patient experience and drive greater patient engagement: non-emergency medical transport (NEMT). NEMT is any transportation service for people who aren’t in an emergency situation, but who need more assistance than a taxi service provides. It is a fast-growing segment in the healthcare workflow, where stakeholders can capture the attention of the patient or family member while they are already thinking about their care.

The recent entrance of Lyft and Uber into healthcare, Ford Motors’ GoRide, as well as several venture backed startups such as Circulation Health and RoundTrip provide solutions for the over 3.6M Americans who miss at least one medical appointment each year. The annual cost of missed appointments in the U.S. is $150B (including lost revenues and idle labor). And the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will begin to reimburse NEMT for medicare advantage beneficiaries. This new touchpoint in the healthcare experience is here to stay.
There are 3 NEMT opportunities for engagement:
1. Scheduling
If stakeholders are able to solve transportation for the patient during appointment scheduling and reminders, the focus of outreach can shift to preparation. Scheduling can transform a neutral process to a positive one, with patients able to focus more on their care. Hospitals could take information from the medical record and send SMS or email reminders along with tailored questions for patients to consider as they get ready for their upcoming appointment. 
2. The Departing Trip
The ride itself is a valuable, defined window of opportunity to provide patients with information about their condition, community resource information via their own app, or utilize the NEMT provider app. During the trip, patients and family members could interact with chatbots, or take a call with a healthcare professional to provide basic information to make the appointment more productive, or enable hospital labor to be more effective during the appointment. For example, Circulation is currently rolling out pilots to prove the effectiveness of healthcare engagement during transportation. Patients are a captive audience during these trips, presenting stakeholders with the opportunity to engage them with important healthcare information such as pre- and post-visit data, or content to promote vaccine awareness.
3. The Return Trip
The NEMT ride back from an appointment may present an even greater patient engagement opportunity than the ride there.  During this time, patients are in a mindset to reflect, and could digitally record or answer any questions people have. They could review their care plan and go over next steps. After all, how many times have you thought of a really important question after you have left the doctor?
NEMT is not free of challenges when it comes to engagement. It requires coordinating multiple stakeholders, whether it’s the health system, the NEMT provider, or even the driver, to make the experience work. When it comes to drivers, NEMT requires training a new labor force of transportation drivers that are prepared to provide not just a ride-sharing experience, but a healthcare experience.
Creating an effective NEMT patient engagement experience requires both a time and capital investment with results that must be quantified. However, NEMT presents a rare opportunity to create new experiences, and gain valuable information and access from patients while they are in transit.



Geri Lynn Baumblatt MA, For the last 20 years, Geri has worked to help people understand health conditions and procedures, orient them to their diagnoses, make more informed decisions about their care, and partner with their care teams.  She oversaw the creation of the Emmi program library, and she regularly speaks and serves on patient engagement, patient experience, health literacy, shared decision making, health design, family caregiving, and heath communication panels for organizations like AHRQ, the Brookings Institute, Stanford Medicine X, and the Center for Plain Language. She serves on the editorial board for the Journal of Patient Experience, is on the board of the Society for Participatory Medicine, and published a chapter in Transformative Healthcare Practice through Patient Engagement (IGI Global). She currently consults on patient engagement, family caregiving, and health communication. Follow her on Twitter @GeriLynn

Dhruv Vasishtha is a healthcare technologist with experience in early stage mobile, wearable, and AI technology. His experience includes strategy and product management at healthcare companies including Medidata and ZS Associates, as well as founding two health IT startups. He received his MBA from The Wharton School in Health Care Management, and his BA from Columbia University.  He currently invests in and advises healthcare technology startups and is organizing the inaugural Innovation in Caregiving conference. @dvasishtha

Tags: patient engagement, communication, doctor's appointment, experience, healthcare, patient
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