When scheduling transportation services, regardless if this is done by phone, fax, or other electronic methods, the interaction should include access to a live EMS dispatcher, and an insurance pre-authorization specialist. This combination of individuals are what allows for selection of the most appropriate and cost effective mode of transportation, and are able to reduce and/or eliminate out-of-pocket expenses to the patient or facility, when insurance pre-authorization is obtained, when required, prior to transport. There are very few agencies that provide such a service and coordination at the time of request.
Typically, a facility calls for transport, tells the provider what mode they want for transport, and schedule a pick-up time. The ambulance service does not ask questions for a more appropriate transport mode, and does not obtain the required information to determine if pre-authorization is required. As a result, a facility or the patient ends up paying for a more expensive service when the insurance would have paid, if pre-authorization was obtained.
In addition, you should expect to receive an appropriate pick up time, to allow for adequate loading and travel time to destination. You should also have the ability to speak with a live EMS dispatcher if there is a schedule change, a question about a trip, or to inquire about the status of a trip already in progress.
An EMS dispatcher differs from the typical “person that answers the phone,” in that there is additional training specific to dispatch services, such as mode of transport selection, medical terminology, insurance coverage, and assistance in the event of emergency during transport. An EMS dispatcher is generally an EMT, but there are no requirements of what defines an EMS dispatcher, nor regulation that states you must have an EMS dispatcher answering the phone. Agencies that just have someone answering the phone, may not have any training except what to ask in order to setup a trips. Essentially, they write down what is requested, and assign the trip to a transport crew. This could be administrative secretary, a crew member waiting for the next trip, etc.