We’ve shared it before: 3.6 million medical appointments are missed or delayed each year due to patient transportation challenges. While this statistic largely focuses on out-patient transportation needs, headaches with medical transportation extend to the in-patient hospital setting as well. After hip surgery, tech care for CHF, or other treatments, a patient may need transportation to a post-hospital setting such as a skilled nursing facility to receive on-going care and therapy. The ride from the hospital to the nursing facility is often ordered by a hospital care navigator or licensed social worker, and can prove to be quite a painful experience for both the navigator and the patient.
“I often spend hours every day on the phone ordering medical transportation for my patients,” commented a social worker at a NJ hospital. “That time spent on the phone calling around and waiting for confirmation distracts me from my real job – tending to the needs of the patient.” We’ve learned that hospitals frequently affiliate with a few different transportation companies and have to “shop around” to find the company that can get to the patient the quickest. Even still, care managers have shared that pickup times offered by the transportation providers may not reflect reality as traffic, weather, and other factors often affect arrival times. The arrival of a patient’s ride is very often a mystery to both the social worker and the patient.
Patients who are ready for discharge and tie-up valuable hospital resources, including clinicians, nurses, and beds, can stymie the efficient flow of other patients through the hospital system. Because an inpatient awaiting a ride occupies that inpatient bed, a patient in the ED may not be able to receive admission into an inpatient unit, and a patient in the waiting room can’t make it to the other side of the ED doors. Transportation, as the final step in the patient experience, can produce costly delays throughout the entire system, create a need for additional staffing to monitor patients, and affect a patient’s perception of quality. The Hospital CAHPS Survey, like all patient surveying, is meant to provide unbiased feedback from patients about the care they experienced at a hospital. With the patient’s final ride after the hospital experience often sitting top of mind when completing a survey, transportation delays can have profound consequences and have significant potential to upset Hospital CHAPS scores.