SafeRide and UNC Health Care: Creating a better hospital discharge experience

 

How UNC Health Care reduced discharge wait times by 90 minutes while improving the patient experience and saving over $51,900

 

 
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UNC Health Care is a not-for profit integrated health care system owned by the state of North Carolina and based in Chapel Hill. Originally established Nov. 1, 1998, by N.C.G.S. 116-37, UNC Health Care currently comprises UNC Hospitals and its provider network, the clinical programs of the UNC School of Medicine, and eleven affiliate hospitals and hospital systems across the state.

 

 
 

Recognizing the opportunity

In order to optimize hospital throughput and bed capacity, UNC Health Care assists with transportation funding and coordination as part of the discharge process for patients who are not able to procure their own rides. Initially, transportation was coordinated by UNC Health Care’s Care Management team in partnership with local taxi companies and BLS providers.

The early results of UNC Health Care’s initial foray into transportation presented a few clear opportunities for improvement. For one, the scheduling process was cumbersome on staff members; instead of focusing their time on delivering critical care services, they were spending hours collectively on the phones scheduling and confirming ride pickups for patients. Additionally, the unpredictable nature of discharges made it difficult to accurately predict pickup times. Since all rides were scheduled in advance, vehicles often showed up well before or after patients were ready to be discharged, leading to long wait times and high cancellations. Finally, the contracted taxi providers charged UNC Health Care on a flat per-mile basis for all rides, making long-distance discharges financially prohibitive.

With these specific challenges in mind, UNC Health Care set out to find a more efficient and effective way of coordinating discharge transportation.

The SafeRide solution

Equipped with tangible improvement areas to focus on around discharge transportation, the leadership team went back to the drawing board. They evaluated several transportation management companies, searching for a solution that would relieve the operational burden on care coordination staff, provide a more consistent and efficient discharge experience for patients, and reduce costs for long-distance rides.

SafeRide emerged early on as the most appropriate solution for UNC Health Care’s specific needs. SafeRide provides a full technology and services solution that is uniquely customized for each partner’s transportation goals. SafeRide’s technology platform had the capabilities needed to significantly ease the operational burden on care coordination staff members, while supporting a centralized transportation network that was more efficient and less costly than UNC Health Care’s existing transportation implementation. Overall, UNC Health Care appreciated that SafeRide would enable them to:

  • Schedule rides with an easy-to-use online tool that requires significantly less time than a phone call.

  • Centralize all ride booking onto one software platform, providing detailed performance tracking capabilities.

  • Leverage on-demand scheduling for discharges rather than advance scheduling around unpredictable discharge times.

  • Shift long-distance ambulatory rides from taxis to Lyft at a significant cost discount.

An improved discharge experience

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UNC Health Care implemented SafeRide in July 2018 and saw an immediate impact on their initial improvement areas. Care management assistants now use the SafeRide booking platform to book rides much more quickly and easily than before, and they have been able to re-invest the time that they have gotten back from transportation booking to provide better care experiences for the patients at UNC Health Care.

SafeRide’s on demand ride booking feature allows UNC Health Care to much more accurately time ride pickups at the actual time of discharge. Scheduling pickups more accurately has had a positive impact on the average discharge wait time. While there is no firm data available around this metric, UNC Health Care notes that the wait time for discharges has decreased from approximately two hours to around 30 minutes since switching to SafeRide. Not only does this decrease improve the patient experience, but at a conservative cost estimate of $10.40 per patient bed-hour, UNC Health Care has realized around $34,000 in personnel cost savings by increasing their hospital throughput.

Finally, the shift from taxis to Lyft for ambulatory rides had an immediate financial impact on transportation costs. In the ten months since launching with SafeRide, UNC Health Care has saved nearly $18,000 on rides for ambulatory patients - a 30.4% cost savings.

Looking forward

“Since switching to SafeRide, our staff is less burdened… our patients are happier… [and] our operations are smoother.”

-Jamie Pope, Operations Manager, Clinical Care Management, UNC Health Care

The partnership between UNC Health Care and SafeRide proved to be so successful that UNC Health Care has since expanded the discharge coordination program to additional departments within the initial hospital group as well as to other hospitals and clinics throughout the network, increasing the number of patients who have access to discharge transportation.

The deep insight and data that SafeRide has been able to generate around transportation performance enables UNC Health Care to make informed decisions around patient care management in the context of discharges, allowing them to maintain a healthy throughput and critical bed capacity. They are further exploring areas in the care continuum where SafeRide can positively impact the patient experience.

 

SafeRide Health is an end-to-end provider of medical transportation technology and services. Our mission is to reconnect the nation’s poor and sick to care while eliminating barriers plaguing the medical transportation industry today. SafeRide simplifies operations, improves patient outcomes, and reduces costs for some of the nation’s leading healthcare systems.