LifeSave Transport may be Kansas-based, but their mission to make emergency transportation affordable extends to all.
“Imagine a sudden medical event such as a heart emergency, miles away from specialists and specialty care. The local providers do their job expertly, but quickly realize the treatment needed is a cardiologist and a cath lab. What is the best way to immediately help the patient get to a higher level of care, which may be a significant distance away? We understand that mission and provide patient transport solutions on a daily basis.”
They also understand the impact of innovating in the global medical transport industry while working locally to improve overall patient care, and what it means to ease the burden of transportation costs on patients.
They are LifeSave Transport of Wichita, Kan., and they are rewriting the book on emergency medical transportation in the state and in the industry as a whole.
Established in 2001 by Martin Sellberg, MD, FACEP (the author of our opening quote) and Richard Watson, MD, LifeSave is a physician-owned company clinically driven to provide medical transport for a large region of the Midwest, as well as in Hawaii and in the Austin, Texas, area. Both are seasoned emergency physicians and aviators — and native Kansans.
“This is our state, this is our region, these are our people,” CEO Sellberg stated. “As emergency medicine providers and rural Kansans we have a particular appreciation of the feelings when your resources are exhausted and you understand that the needs of the patient exceed what you're able to deliver. When that happens, that patient has to be routed as safely, quickly, and competently as possible.”
In areas where there are significant distances between attending rural facilities and tertiary care, patient transportation can mean the difference between life and death. “Every decision we make centers around the patient,” said company COO and CFO, Melissa Knott. “We know that saving time means better patient outcomes in the long run, and we do whatever we can to line up every domino to effect time-saving. There's a lot of strategy and preparation that goes into staging our aircraft, our people, and our resources to cover the ‘what ifs.’”
LifeSave operates a fleet of Beechcraft King Air fixed wing and Bell rotor wing aircraft, and ground ambulances, which are staffed with critical care personnel. The firm also runs a state-of-the-art communication center, an in-house maintenance facility, education department, and patient billing division.
The firm’s work doesn’t end when their service calls do. “We're here to assist patients from the minute the call comes in for transport all the way through the end of the billing cycle. We consider ourselves patient advocates through the entire process, and take care of them on the financial end as well,” Knott revealed.
In what is clearly an innovative approach to handling the skyrocketing costs of medical transportation, LifeSave not only works with insurers and patients on insurance coverage matters, but also offers a low-cost yearly membership that works in conjunction with insurers. After a carrier covers whatever costs are incurred, including co-pays and the deductible, members pay no out of pocket costs.
“We know about the high cost of doing business in aviation and in medicine,” Watson added. “But at some level, we as healthcare providers have to understand that sustainability requires that we are not just solving the challenges for the greatest profitability. That's the DNA of our company. We're not out there just trying to justify large bottom lines.
“It's about how we fit into the greater healthcare community. We are responsibly addressing the issues surrounding the delivery of high cost services that are necessary for the health and welfare of patients. Utilizing strategies for dealing with global transport costs within a system, whether it's utilizing membership programs or novel payment models, we begin to negate some of the unfettered charge structures that are out there and that have garnered a lot of press. As we become more responsible for not only the health of the person, but also the dollars that are in our healthcare system, these sorts of programs and ways of working with finite resources make more and more sense.”
Doctors (and Data) Make the Difference
“We are a clinical company running a transport business,” Knott stressed. “We are owned by physicians and are clinically driven in every decision we make with the best interests of the patient at heart. It makes our business decisions very easy because time and time again we are doing the best thing for the patient.”
That differentiator is underscored by LifeSave’s partnership with the Kansas Clinical Improvement Collaborative, one of the country’s largest rural Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), and one of the most forward-thinking groups of its kind. The collaborative works to develop new treatment models that result in improved patient outcomes and lower healthcare costs.
LifeSave is partnering with the collaborative’s 35 participating hospitals in their transport initiative as a preferred provider. Said Watson, “The decisions that we usually deal with in healthcare are made from a place where you don’t see who's making those decisions and don't always understand the reasoning behind those decisions. At the end of the day, it's hard to understand how certain policy decisions really benefit patient care.
“As the preferred provider of that ACO community and a transport company that is responsible for how we care for people in that network, it's immediately obvious that integration makes for efficiencies that save money. There's no question that in integrated systems, partner communication is one of the biggest advantages. Secondary advantages allow us to do some innovation, and some very creative things that without walking side-by-side we are not able to do. That's where the collaborative is very successful: in helping people sit together at the table and realize the benefits of making shared decisions.”
As company CTO, Watson has developed the LifeSave Mission Control™ software tool, an industry first. “We put a tool out there for hospitals and providers that assists them through every step in deciding the best way to transport a patient. The program helps to match each patient with the appropriate level of in-transport care and the most suitable transport vehicle. LSMC tracks the patient movement and clinicians can update the patient’s condition en route.”
Patient needs are based upon an Acuity Index, developed specifically by Dr. Sellberg for the emergency transportation industry. Eight concise questions enable providers to understand the clinical implications of transporting a patient, and helps them decide the level of care required during a trip.
“In this process we actually build a transport plan that is specific for each hospital and represents the thumbprint of how they prefer to transport patients in the system.” The data is overlaid on LSMC, which matches results from the Acuity Index and tailors it with relevant geography, patient demographics, and weather.
“LSMC utilizes algorithms, paired with human oversight and decision making to match crews, vehicles, and patients together and helps to facilitate communication between senders and receivers. We are able to then track patients with GPS tools as well as with instant messaging and shared information to create a seamless environment for patients to move to the appropriate level of care,” Watson added.
“We are a progressive, compassionate company that not only wants to do good but also to move our industry forward,” Watson concluded. “We want to look back 10 or 15 years from now and know that we not only took care of the patients well, but we also took care of our industry. We strive to be good representatives in the marketplace of what it means to do medical transport.”
LifeSave Transport, a critical care ambulance service, has been caring for patients since 2001. LifeSave is a physician-driven company and is designed as a healthcare organization utilizing air and ground vehicles in its practice of transport medicine. Partnering with healthcare providers throughout the Midwest region, Texas, and Hawaii, LifeSave has an unrivaled reputation for patient care and an excellent safety record. The mission of LifeSave is to safely provide rapid access for critically ill or injured patients to tertiary care.
LifeSave's independent air medical transport service provides immediate access to those with a medical or surgical emergency who may need a trauma surgeon, a cardiologist, or a neurologic specialist. LifeSave is engaged in providing safe, quality, air and ground transport services.