MedFlight Services: A Fight for Quality?
Philip Koster and Mandi Cornett will provide emergency services for MedFlight's new private-ambulance venture, MedCare Ambulance. MedCare, which will operate six ambulances, will be the preferred choice for Ohio State University and OhioHealth. [AP]
Columbus Dispatch via YellowBrix
June 28, 2010
COLUMBUS, OH – MedFlight is getting into the ambulance business despite the slim profit margin medical transport companies face.
“When you look at the ambulance transportation industry, it’s very, very expensive to operate,” said Ronald L. Grout, executive director of the Ohio Medical Transportation Board. “From insurance to the equipment to the personnel, it’s a very expensive undertaking.”
In Ohio, Medicare payments to ambulance businesses generally run 5 percent to 8 percent below operating costs, Grout said.
So why would MedFlight, which is owned by Ohio State University and OhioHealth, create an ambulance company to move patients among hospitals or back to nursing homes?
“To make sure that the same level of care is maintained from the point they come into OSU and leave OSU,” said Dr. Howie Werman, professor of emergency medicine at Ohio State and medical director at MedFlight.
“That isn’t to be disparaging to anyone at all on what other ambulance services provide, but nonetheless we think we can offer a certain quality level,” he said.
MedFlight announced last week the creation of MedCare Ambulance, a private ambulance company. It’s jointly owned with Community Emergency Medical Service of Southfield, Mich., which already operates private ambulances in Franklin County.
MedCare will be the preferred choice of the two hospital systems to move patients. But if the six MedCare ambulances are busy, another company will be called.
OSU Medical Center and OhioHealth will have seats on the MedCare board.
“When you have companies that aren’t part of your company, you can’t dictate quality standards,” said Tony Anteau, who becomes vice president of operations at MedCare next month.
But other companies question whether MedCare will improve patient care.
“EMS is EMS,” said Matthew Rausenberg, director of administrative services at 1st Advanced Transportation. “Their medics will hold the same medic card as my medics and the same as Columbus (Division of) Fire.”
Rausenberg said many people in the private-ambulance industry jump from company to company, depending on who pays more. Anteau, for example, currently works for MedCorp Ambulance and Medical Transport Services, based in Toledo.
Two state boards oversee private ambulances. The Ohio Medical Transportation Board sets standards on vehicles and equipment, and the Ohio EMS Board oversees emergency medical workers.
Werman said the hospitals will demand higher standards, including hitting clinical targets, complying with medical protocols and continuing education for emergency medical workers.
But Rausenberg said private ambulance transports should not be compared to medics responding to 911 calls.
“You’re not going to improve the mortality rate of car accidents,” he said. “You’re not going to improve the survival rate of heart attacks. You’re going to provide a service.”