Integrating 21st-century technology has been a game-changer in non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT). NEMT providers and care coordinators now have access to more invaluable tools to schedule and monitor patient rides than ever before. These tools are having a tremendous impact on the industry, increasing access to care, and leading to better health outcomes. As we look to the future, the next wave of technological advancements will undoubtedly continue to change NEMT for the better. Here are three things we see that will shape the future of NEMT:
1. Complete ride digitization
Technology has progressed to a point where anyone operating a ride has multiple touchpoints. Soon, all NEMT rides will be completely digitized — a benefit that will change the industry for the better, particularly when it comes to combating fraud, waste, and abuse (FWA). Introducing the latest route-building and GPS capabilities to the process means that there will be higher transparency to enforce accountability. Ride digitization also bodes well for the overall quality of NEMT service. Key ride quality metrics like driver on-time performance, ride quality based on driving parameters (like speeding, braking, deviation from routes, etc.), and rider feedback can be easily tracked at the ride level and aggregated at the transportation provider level. For transportation providers, it will make the entire process more efficient, decreasing missed connections while ensuring enough transportation supply to meet patient demand.
2. Major shifts in care delivery
With the increasing popularity of telehealth, nurses and physicians are exiting traditional settings and entering homes and other care locations. With the rise of new health care roles like community health workers, primary healthcare services, and patient education is now done in the setting of the patient’s home. As such, there will be a decrease in the total number of people who need to be physically present for an appointment. This new reality means that NEMT will be used to benefit those who need it most, such as those with behavioral health needs, or those who need treatment for chronic illness.
3. The assimilation of autonomous vehicles into society
Plenty has been said about autonomous, or “driverless,” vehicles, and there are currently many challenges that need overcoming as they’re introduced into society. With many companies emerging in the space, such as Alphabet’s Waymo, many predict that we will begin to see autonomous vehicles on the road in about 10 years. As a result, more people will be using autonomous vehicles to get to and from medical appointments. Autonomous vehicles will likely work as a complement to NEMT, with drivers transitioning to attendants in vehicles to assist patients. Ultimately, autonomous vehicles have the potential to make NEMT better by making rides safer, coordination simpler, and ensuring patients remain at the center of care
In closing, it’s safe to say that the future of NEMT looks to follow its current trend. New and innovative technology will undoubtedly continue shaping the future of the industry, and every new stride will focus on improving the patient experience and delivering better health outcomes.
This content was originally published in the Fall edition of NEMT Today, the quarterly newsletter for NEMTAC.