Top 5 Biggest Changes in Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT) Technology

By September 24, 2019

What more than 30 years in NEMT and paratransit services have taught us about the future of public transportation

More than 30 years ago, the CTS Software (TripMaster) team set its foundation in non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) and paratransit services by providing American Disability Act (ADA) compliant transportation to counties throughout the southeastern U.S.

As the company grew and more people relied on its services, the team quickly discovered support—primarily technology—for NEMT and paratransit services fell short. Processes from trip-scheduling, to routing, to fare-collections were manual, paper-based, time-consuming, and all-around inefficient.

Seeing both gap and need, the team shifted its focus to transportation management technologies to facilitate and expedite NEMT and paratransit services. Its commitment for more than three decades has been—and continues to be—to provide exceptional transportation management software that revolutionizes the transportation industry and ultimately makes public transit viable for all.

Here are 5 ways NEMT and paratransit technology has changed and what we see for the industry’s future:

1. Real-time data access

Early in NEMT, most fleets had limited in-vehicle technology, if any at all. Those that did, used large, bulky, and expensive hardware that few growing agencies could afford. The average vehicle terminal easily cost $5,000 with additional cellular fees to operate, meaning few companies had the resources to upfit their entire fleets.

The introduction of tablet computing, smartphones with cameras, and GPS systems are game-changers for NEMT and paratransit companies. 

For the first time, affordable technology is directly in the hands of drivers. Mobile applications like ParaScope create real-time data exchange between drivers, vehicles, and office staff so your team can communicate safely and efficiently.

These resources, supported by transportation management software, enable accurate and immediate data collection that can be reviewed and analyzed throughout the day to improve efficiencies and customer service. Additionally, this data collection is an important and imperative part of regulatory compliance, helping to ensure Medicaid NEMT customers are treated fairly and provided with quality services.

Detailed and accurate billing data, coupled with multiple ways to create reports to review operational efficiencies and regulatory compliance, helps service providers with management, finances, planning, and reviewing customer attributes and future needs.

2. So long, paper manifests

Even as recently as 10 years ago, most NEMT and paratransit vehicles operated off paper manifests.

It looked something like this: early in the morning, office staff completed paper manifests with passenger, fare, route, and scheduling information. 

Each driver took a copy of a paper manifest into their vehicle with them. Throughout the day, with cancelations, route issues, and other obstacles, the paper manifests quickly became incorrect. Drivers had to manually update the paper manifest, inserting their own notes, pick-up and drop-off times, comments, fare collection, and other corrections. 

When a driver’s shift came to an end, that manifest, along with all of the other notes, fares, and calculations done throughout the day were turned back over to office staff for manual input into the company’s operating systems. 

The next day the tedious process began again.

Modern transportation management software enables real-time communication between administrators, drivers, and customers, ensuring more efficient services and operational cost-savings. The technology can be used to create recurring and on-demand reservations so customers have the flexibility to create reservations the same day or for any time in the future.

Automated scheduling now means your company can instantly generate schedules that decrease vehicle miles and drive time, providing optimal customer service with on-time performance. 

3. Fare collections

About $3 billion of Medicaid funding is directed toward covering transportation services, like NEMT. Historically, like much of NEMT and paratransit operations, fare collections were done on paper or with cash exchanges, serving as a potential barrier for customers and increasing the likelihood of mistakes or mismanagement from transit providers. 

Today, fare collection technology helps reduce costs related to managing passes and tickets—as well as vouchers and cash—helping to create instant accountability and security.

ParaPass, for example, helps providers keep track of fare payments. Riders can quickly and easily load money onto their ParaPass at the office or over the phone. When boarding for a trip, the driver scans the pass and fares are instantly taken care of.

4. Mapping and ride requesting

Before the evolution of transportation management software, most routes were created on paper maps with no insight into delays, road closures, or traffic patterns. Also, pick-up and drop-off locations were written by hand, meaning if someone’s 7 looked remarkably like a 4, a driver could easily end up at the wrong location. 

As NEMT services are a critical component of getting Medicaid recipients to and from medical and related appointments, that one miswritten number could mean unforeseen delays that costs the customer valuable time and potentially missed appointments for critical—even life-saving—appointments.

Today’s transportation management software enables scheduling optimization for both driver and rider, giving real-time insight into any obstacles that may prevent or delay movement from Point A to Point B, giving insight into new or closed roads, speed limit adjustments, and other critical information.

5. Increased usage

According to a report from the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, almost 4 million U.S. adults miss or delay medical appointments because they have transportation issues.

With about 1 in 8 Americans living below the poverty line, coupled with an estimated 10 million people who have a Medicaid-covered disability and with more than 72 million people enrolled in Medicaid services, the need for NEMT and paratransit services is only going to continue to increase. 

This need will also be fueled by the increasing number of older Americans who may have limitations to transportation access caused by age and other factors. By 2030, more than 20% of the U.S. population will be 65 or older. By 2060, that age group will represent 1 out of every 4 Americans.

Further, as healthcare agencies are continually held accountable—and required to report—on patient flow throughout the healthcare system, there is likely to be more industry focus on the value of efficient and reliable NEMT services, thus continuing to fuel the need for quality services. 

The more efficient evolving transportation management applications become, the more likely the industry is to see increased use in services and overall customer satisfaction with improved regulatory compliance.

Since its founding more than 30 years ago, CTS Software has been driven by providing service for customers. What started as a vision, today, has evolved into a full-service transit suite, including: automated scheduling, custom reporting, integrated voice response, mobile solutions, automated vehicle locator, and a web-based rider portal.

Ready to improve your NEMT and paratransit operations with more efficiency, time and cost-savings, and improved customer satisfaction?