Innovative Data Integration Strategies to Solve EMS Billing Challenges
Posted on February 3, 2022 by Jim Pingel
We write every now and then about the billing woes that traditionally have plagued the emergency medical services (EMS) community. The inability to efficiently bill patients and collect payments cost EMS agencies hundreds of millions of dollars every year. The trickle-down effect is that many agencies often find it difficult to maintain their service-delivery models, pay salaries and benefits, ensure that existing equipment is operational, and upgrade or replace equipment that has reached or is approaching the end of life.
The Role of EMS Technology
Technology has emerged to close the billing and collection gap for EMS agencies. Tablet computers — which have the added benefit of costing far less than the rugged laptops that traditionally have been found in ambulances and fire engines — increasingly are being used by paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs).
In addition, several applications exist for capturing electronic patient care reporting (ePCR) data easily, efficiently, and correctly. The combination of a tablet or smartphone with an integrated camera and an ePCR application enables images of a patient’s driver’s license and insurance card to be captured, which significantly reduces errors. It eliminates the possibility of typos to be sure, but insurance cards usually contain several plan, account and patient numbers, and paramedics/EMTs don’t always know which ones to capture. The ability to capture an image of the insurance card eliminates any confusion. The applications — which are available for tablets and smartphones — will self-populate the data into the agency’s billing platform, which enables a correct bill to be sent to the service recipient with the click of a button.
Taking Technology to the Next Level with Data Integration Strategies
These are positive steps, but there’s a lot more that can be done via the application of data integration strategies and tactics. Here are a few examples:
- Scanning a driver’s license bar code could enable a query of a state’s driver licensing and vehicle registration databases. Some states return insurance information in response to those queries. Governance and privacy issues do exist that would have to be overcome. However, integrating the EMS and driver licensing and registration data systems would quickly yield error-free information that any EMS, fire/rescue, or law enforcement agency could use, while at the same time dramatically reducing keystrokes.
- Machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) can be applied to the vast amount of data collected by EMS agencies — as well as other public safety systems, such as computer-aided dispatch and 911 call-handling — to perform analytics that will uncover previously unseen operational gaps and patterns that need to be acted upon. Such analytics also are very useful in helping an agency do a better job of resource allocation.
- A key barrier to this level of analysis is the upfront cost, i.e., investing in the technology and the infrastructure of a big-data solution. Hosting this sort of solution in a cloud environment can be the key to spreading infrastructure costs across multiple partner agencies.
- Data gathered by multiple EMS agencies can coalesce in a single data lake — which is where ML and AI are leveraged — that would serve an entire region. At the same time, the technology would limit data access to prevent sharing of data that cannot be shared — protecting the privacy and the confidentiality of the data. This would enable all agencies across a region or state to take advantage of “big data” analytics through a fee-based subscription service. Without such a service, which is made possible via data integration, smaller agencies might not be able to take advantage of these capabilities due to funding and resource limitations.
MCP’s data-integration services (DIS) team has a great deal of expertise in these and other areas, and we would love to discuss how data integration can enhance your billing program and other aspects of your operation — please reach out.
Jim Pingel is an MCP account manager who is part of the DIS team. He can be emailed at JimPingel@MissionCriticalPartners.com.