By Jim Burke
Healthcare organizations face another area of liability – operating and maintaining a fleet of vans or buses to transport patients to and from their facility. Learn 4 best practices to doing healthcare transportation right.
It’s estimated that 3.6 million Americans don’t get the medical care they need due to lack of transportation. For many healthcare providers including nursing homes, hospitals and home healthcare organizations, this has become a mandate to cultivate and maintain a fleet of vehicles.
From vans and buses to ambulances, many healthcare organizations have now added “patient transportation” to their list of services – and with that comes a host of other risks and liabilities.
Hiring the right drivers to deal with elderly or sick patients, training them to skillfully use paratransit vehicles and drive defensively have all proven to be significant challenges for healthcare organizations. Maintaining a fleet of vehicles is an added expense and headache for organizations that aren’t primarily in the transportation business.
Moving Patients with Care
To meet the transportation needs of patients in the safest, most cost-effective way, consider managing your fleet with the following best practices:
- Create a fleet safety program. Enforce it. Include policies and procedures on safe driving, on when to report violations and how often you’ll be doing motor vehicle record (MVR) checks with the state to confirm the validity of each driver’s license and current standing. Drug and alcohol programs should be included in this program. If your organization has a zero-tolerance policy, spell it out. Include accident investigation protocols and make sure they’re known to all drivers well before they get into a fender bender or receive a speeding ticket.
Let drivers know you will be enforcing safety program rules and regulations. If a driver is cruising at over 100 mph (even without patients) and receives no consequence, then a few months later when he is involved in a real crash, plaintiffs’ attorneys will get a hold of the van’s telematics and your organization will pay the price.
- Employ in-vehicle telematics. When implemented properly, in-vehicle telematics can help promote an organization’s safety program by monitoring driver behavior and serving as a deterrent to poor driving. Providing organizations with driver data, telematics helps enforce safety policies and procedures. Other technology is available aftermarket, if not already installed, that can alert drivers to lane departure or following too close and may include automatic braking features.
- Institute driver training. Train drivers on exactly what they need to know to transport your unique patient population before they get behind the wheel. Besides the basics of safe driving, not knowing the proper way to secure a wheelchair-bound patient into a paratransit van presents a serious liability for any healthcare organization. Does the patient carry an oxygen tank, or other specialized equipment? Educate drivers on how to work with any type of medical gear your patients may have. In addition to the potential medical scenarios, consider training drivers on how to deal with combative or argumentative patients. Even a little training can go a long way in teaching patience.
- Perform regular and scheduled maintenance on all vehicles. While the vast majority of accidents are the result of human error, as many as 5% are due to vehicle maintenance issues or breakdowns. When there’s an accident with one of your marked vehicles, everyone will see it sitting on the side of the road, company logo and all. In addition to being safe, vehicle maintenance is also a reputational thing.
Meeting patients where they are and getting them the help they need is commendable. Ensuring your fleet and its drivers are safe and protected will make sure they continue to do so.
About the author:
Jim Burke is a Vice President/Sr. Risk Consultant on Hub International’s Risk Services team. He has over 30 years’ experience in professional safety and risk control consulting with direct, practical experience in a broad range of diversified business operations. Jim specializes in safety management process development, risk minimization and mitigation strategies and development of best practices across the broad range of risk considerations.