Starting a NEMT Operation? Here Are The 5 Things You Need to Know
Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT) is a steadily-growing part of America’s transportation economy, especially as the Baby Boomer generation ages. Today, the world of NEMT is also changing rapidly as emerging technologies open new ways to connect riders and providers. If you’re thinking of capitalizing on this wave, it’s important to understand the most important aspects of the business first.
The Top Five Things to Know About NEMT
Although NEMT may seem simple enough, there is actually much more to the industry than just picking up and dropping off clients who need to see medical providers. Here, we’ve distilled the five most crucial aspects of the NEMT business to make researching potential business prospects easier.
1. Contracts are the Bread & Butter of NEMT Businesses
Without contracts, building a base of ridership is going to be very difficult, so take the time to understand the essentials. For example, there is a whole world of state-sponsored contracts, but you need to understand basic requirements; for instance, many state contracts now stipulate that you know where your vehicles are at any time and how many trips they’ve made.
Once you’ve researched what local NEMT policies may apply to your company contracts, it’s action time! Finding contracts should be your first priority as you begin working to set the business up.
As with many other aspects of entrepreneurship, “starting small” is a good idea. Working with a small broker first is a great way to build a reputation and some experience at the same time. One good way to do this is to reach out to a local assisted living facility and see if you can get a small agreement. This is a relatively low-stakes way to begin growing the business without struggling with the second item on our list!
2. Understand Operations Basics
Many prospective NEMT business owners think that they need a fleet of vehicles first before they’ve even booked a single ride. In fact, in many ways the opposite is true: it’s a good idea to secure a small contract first. This way, it’s possible to get an idea of beginning ridership volume before you take the financial risk of buying multiple vehicles.
As operations grow, many prospective customers are going to ask a crucial, but industry-standard question: “what is your on-time performance rate?” Being able to get this information easily is, therefore, a key part of operating a NEMT business successfully, and if you can’t do so, you’re already behind the competition. This is why it’s important to look at the last item on our list, and understand how crucial picking the correct dispatch and operation software is.
3. Who is Going to Be Driving Your Fleet?
To gain a competitive edge in the field, and to comply with more stringent contract guidelines that may be in place at larger businesses or state-run entities, hiring the right drivers is important. In the case of NEMT best practices, your hiring requirements should include:
- Certification for all drivers. Certification requirements vary by state, but NEMT driver certification training is now commonplace enough that you should be able to find an applicable program for your prospective drivers. You could also just hire people who have already gone through the training process. Certification training will include crucial things like how to operate wheelchair lifts and safely handle oxygen tanks and other medical or mobility equipment.
- Drugs and alcohol. Although we would all like to hope we hire operators with good intentions, drivers who work while under the influence can be a serious risk to themselves and passengers. Even worse, drivers who are caught operating while intoxicated can be a very real liability to the business as a whole. Make sure there’s a plan for performing a drug screen upon hire and consider implementing random drug and alcohol screenings across the duration of employment.
- Insurance. To keep your insurance rates down, it’s important to understand how driver history can affect commercial driving insurance rates. Make sure you’re also doing an extensive driving history check for prospective hires.
4. What Does Online Presence Have to do with it?
Although many NEMT companies may have a ridership that skews toward the elderly, that doesn’t mean that the companies contracting your services aren’t tech-savvy. Additionally, these days, many retirees have been using smartphones for a decade. This makes two things important:
- Invest in a good website. If you don’t have a website that communicates quality and professionalism, you’re going to be “at the bottom of the list” when looking for new contracts; additionally, if you aren’t ranking well, it may be harder for prospective companies or riders to find you.
- Social media like twitter is less important in the NEMT world, but at the very least you should claim your business on google and facebook. A good web development/marketing agency will be able to help you do these things.
- Look toward the future with interactive features on your website. Some NEMT software now offers things like online portals where riders can connect directly with services, or even a mobile app, which brings us to the last big point on our list of things you need to know about before starting your business.
5. Good Tech = Good Business
These days, selecting the right technology for your NEMT company’s operations is a make-or-break decision. Current options available go way beyond simple dispatch software, and there are serious reasons to consider using software that integrates all aspects of the business into one place.
Without software that can “live”-track ride locations and numbers, you won’t be able to work with certain brokers. For example, two important companies in this field, MTM and Logisticare, won’t engage with your company. The expectation to be able to track operations in real-time continues to grow in the NEMT industry, so not having these capabilities could take you out of the running for the kind of contracts that could sustain the core of your business. Pay close attention to software features before you sign up!
Good software will also employ a host of other features that can be very helpful to minimize operating costs. For example, “smart” dispatching uses the computer to plan routes in order to maximize efficiency and help reduce time and fuel costs. Quality software can also help do things like automate reporting around things like ridership numbers and ride times, saving you paperwork and headaches. Strong features like these are worth the initial investment because they will help maintain financial margins and give you room to grow as a company.
Conclusion: Doing Research is Always Worth it
Understanding the five basics of how a NEMT company should approach starting their business is already putting you ahead of the competition. Contracts, drivers, web presence, and good tech are all crucial pieces of the puzzle that need to be addressed correctly if you are to succeed in a field that is growing steadily. This is because growth doesn’t just mean more opportunities, but more competition as well, so it’s important to start out as prepared as possible.
If there’s one lesson we hope you’ve taken away today, it’s that good NEMT software makes virtually everything on this list easier and will help the company operate seamlessly. If you’re eager to continue learning about NEMT, check out this article on <a href=”link”>software support</la> or learn more about how <a href=”link”>NEMT fits into the growing field of Microtransit</a>.