In today’s health-oriented landscape, non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) has never been more relevant. NEMT businesses provide accessible transportation for the elderly and disabled. In other cases, NEMT is utilized to give medical VIP transport for commuters interested in privacy, comfort, and speed. However, while NEMT is more about transport than medical care, it is not a regular taxi service. This article explains the basic fundamentals of NEMT businesses, and offers best practices to establish efficiency and profitability.
In this article, you will learn:
- What is non-emergency medical transportation?
- NEMT certification, licensing, and insurance requirements
- How to start a NEMT business
- 5 ways to become more efficient and profitable
- NEMT fleet optimization with HERE Mobility
What Is Non-Emergency Medical Transportation?
Non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) is a service that people can use to access medical care independently. It allows those who would otherwise struggle to go to medical appointments, clinics, or testing sites to travel to them directly. This transportation is more convenient than regular public transit and reduces reliance on relatives, friends, and neighbors.
Often, NEMT businesses are designed for elderly or disabled persons who are unable to easily use public transportation due to location or vehicle design. However, NEMT transportation can also be used by individuals who wish for greater privacy, comfort, and speed when traveling to medical care.
A non-emergency medical transportation business is designed to provide services similar to taxis but with vehicles designed to accommodate people with limited mobility—for example, those in wheelchairs or needing stretchers. A NEMT driver may also be trained to know how to load mobility devices, assist passengers with medical restrictions, or communicate with individuals with different levels of physical or mental functioning.
How are services accessed?
Passengers typically book NEMT services through telephone or mobile applications. These technologies are operated by transportation brokers who verify eligibility, locate available services, and dispatch drivers accordingly.
Depending on the service, passengers can either pay directly or use medical insurance to cover the costs of transportation. In some cases, transportation is funded by state or local programs. This helps ensure that citizens can access medical services routinely and can help decrease the cost of healthcare in a community.
NEMT Certification, Licensing, and Insurance Requirements
In the United States, there are no federal guidelines for the NEMT industry. Instead, each state holds its own set of regulations and rules. When operating a NEMT business, you need to ensure that you are meeting the requirements of your state.
NEMT certification elements
There is currently no standard certification or training process for NEMT operators. This is in contrast to ambulance drivers, who must meet specific criteria to be employed. Despite this, your staff must be appropriately trained in basic medical care, including first aid, use of an automated external defibrillator (AED), and CPR.
NEMT licensing elements
You need to ensure that your vehicles and drivers are correctly licensed. For vehicles, check if your state has requirements for commercial vehicles to be labeled, inspected, or plated differently.
For drivers, verify what level of license is needed and what criteria must be met to hold that license. For example, if there are standards requiring health verification, criminal background checks, or drug screenings.
Auto and liability insurance elements
Ensure you have appropriate levels and types of insurance. This includes vehicle insurance that covers both material and passenger damages. Vehicle liability insurance is not enough, especially if you have new vehicles.
You also need insurance to cover any accidents or medical events that occur during transport. While you can train drivers on how to appropriately manage passengers, you cannot control whether passengers have medical issues in transport or get injured getting into or out of your vehicles.
How to Start a NEMT Business
Starting a non-emergency medical transportation business takes a significant amount of work and could feel overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. The following steps can give you a good idea of where to begin.
Establish a business entity
As a first step, you need to establish a business entity and get yourself registered. This involves determining your:
Legal structure—you can operate as a sole proprietorship, partnership, or limited liability corporation (LLC). The latter is the most reliable as it creates a clear separation between personal and business assets.
Legal documents—including licenses, certificates, and operational permits. These vary by state or city, but standard requirements are often available in a Medical Transportation Provider Application Package available from your local authority.
Set up a fleet
Once your company is established, you can purchase and set up your fleet. Regardless of the number of vehicles you have, make sure that all are safe and reliable.
You also need to either purchase vehicles with existing customizations or perform the customizations yourself to ensure accessibility for clients and equipment. If you aren’t sure how to meet these requirements, you can check with Americans with Disabilities (ADA) for guidelines.
Purchase NEMT insurance
After your vehicles are purchased, but before you begin operating, you need to ensure you have the proper NEMT insurance coverage. As introduced above, this insurance needs to cover your vehicles and your operations.
Coverage and cost depends on the types of vehicles you have and the equipment on those vehicles—for example, life support equipment or wheelchair lifts. Getting quotes from several insurance agencies is advised, but be careful about automatically choosing the cheapest quote. Doing so can leave you with less coverage than you need.
With legal requirements and fleet in place, your next step is to organize your technology. This includes both marketing and operational technologies. You’ll want to create an accessible website, advertise your services on social media or through search engine results, and develop or adopt an app for users. You’ll likely also want to arrange your NEMT software suite with tools for fleet dispatch, communications, and documentation of services.
5 Ways to Become More Efficient and Profitable
After your NEMT business is up and running, several tips can help you ensure that your operations are efficient and profitable.
1. Get contracts with local businesses that need transportation
While you may get some private business, most NEMT customers come through contracts with nursing homes, insurance companies, clinics, or hospitals. To ensure that you have enough clients, you need to be proactive in securing these contracts—approach organizations who may have clients in need of your service and start building a brand reputation.
2. Be eligible to get more business from brokers
NEMT brokers are organizations responsible for managing trips, distributing jobs to NEMT providers, and working as proxies for healthcare facilities or insurance companies. When working with NEMT brokers, make sure you follow their guidelines. Timeliness, cleanliness, and excellent customer service go a long way towards ensuring that you continue getting clients from brokers.
These traits can also help increase your reputation with that broker, resulting in more trips. Other important aspects to pay attention to are the clarity of your documentation, the accuracy of any claims you submit, and how well you adhere to standards.
3. Invest in clean, reliable vehicles
When first starting, vehicle quality is more important than quantity. No amount of vehicles can make up for clients who are uncomfortable because your vehicles are dirty or lacking the proper equipment. Likewise, if your vehicle breaks down or otherwise has problems on a ride, your reputation will suffer.
4. Have comprehensive policies and procedures
Having clear policies and procedures helps you ensure that operations are smooth and safe. This sort of organization and planning shows professionalism and ensures that details don’t fall through the cracks.
Additionally, keep in mind that your policies and procedures need to grow with you. What worked when you first started isn’t necessarily appropriate as you hire more drivers, include more vehicles, or expand to broader service areas.
5. Keep yourself technologically updated
You may be able to manage manually dispatching one vehicle and one driver with no issues, but this does not scale. Dispatching software is a necessity when it comes to efficiently deploying rides, communicating with drivers, and tracking vehicles.
These systems typically also include automated billing and scheduling. Many come with an associated set of applications; one for drivers and one for customers. Choosing systems that centralize your tools and technologies can help you more efficiently manage services and can save you effort in the long run.
NEMT Fleet Optimization with HERE Mobility
The HERE Mobility Optimizer provides scheduling and route optimization for fleets, ride services, NEMTs, PTSs, and VSLs. This tool is based on machine learning and advanced algorithms and can help you improve your fleet’s efficiency up to 40% while reducing costs.
By using the HERE Mobility Optimizer, your NEMT can benefit from:
Customized optimization: Manage your fleet your way. Use rules to decide how your fleet should be optimized. For example, prioritize fair ride distribution between drivers, equal ride duration, or the same revenue.
Solo and shared rides: Optimize your pre-booked rides into solo or shared trips based on your customer preferences and get the results that match your capacity.
Easy scheduling: Save time and mistakes by eliminating the need for time-consuming manual scheduling. The optimizer’s user-friendly interface lets you digitally do everything you need.
Optimized itineraries: Get optimized routes for your fleets in no time. All rides are calculated and analyzed for the best possible solution, with itineraries typically provided within 6 minutes.
Supported accessibility: Prioritize accessibility. The HERE Mobility Optimizer supports accessibility and enables wheelchair ride optimization for both solo and shared rides with any mix of passengers.