One Year at Baptist: Integration key to ambulance service success

Priority Ambulance’s first 10 Baptist-branded ambulances to serve the greater Memphis area arrive at the Baptist Memorial Health Care corporate headquarters on April 1, 2017.

When the first Baptist-branded ambulances rolled into Memphis on April 1, 2017, it was the culmination of months of work developing a uniquely, integrated system that would ultimately streamline processes and increase efficiencies in patient transfers throughout Baptist Memorial Health Care’s hospitals and six 9-1-1 service areas in Tennessee and Mississippi.

In March 2017, Priority Ambulance signed a master services agreement to become the ambulance transport provider to Baptist Memorial Health Care and less than three weeks later Priority Ambulance had mobilized the first 10 ambulances and more than 60 employees to serve Baptist’s five medical facilities in the greater Memphis area. One year into the relationship, Priority Ambulance has 31 vehicles and 300 ambulance employees providing medical transport to more than 30,000 patients each year at 12 Baptist Memorial Health Care facilities and provides six communities with 9-1-1 service in Mississippi and West Tennessee.

Priority Ambulance Vice President of Baptist Ambulance Operations Eric Messer (left) shakes hands with Baptist Memorial Health Care Vice President of Hospital and Affiliate Integration Derick Ziegler at the one-year anniversary celebration of the partnership between the two organizations on April 3, 2018.

“The integration of our ambulance services to one single provider for the majority of our facilities has been a positive move for our system, “ said Derick Ziegler, vice president of hospital and affiliate integration for Baptist Memorial Health Care. “Our system strategies were to improve the medical transport effectiveness and efficiency for our patients, integrate the patient transfer process and centralized dispatch communications, yielding overall improved transportation economics.

“In partnership with Priority, we have experienced significant progress in all of these areas in 2017. The partnership with Priority Ambulance has brought industry expertise and innovation in ambulance service that has provided Baptist with the tools to stay on the forefront of technology and protocol advancements in the ever-changing health care industry.”

In 2016, Priority Ambulance and Baptist began discussions to define the improvements for movement of patients needing a higher level of care located at smaller regional locations  across  three states with the ultimate goal of patient delivery at the right place at the right time keeping the patient as close to home as possible. Baptist was able to leverage Priority Ambulance’s management expertise, its national purchasing power and the administration efficiencies it experiences as a large national ambulance company to improve care and efficiency for our patients during medical transport. This partnership allowed Baptist to laser focus its attention on patient care and hospital operations while holding Priority Ambulance accountable for patient care and experience during transfers and medical transport.

“A significant advantage to having one ambulance service provider for the majority all facilities is accountability,” said Katie Morrissette, Baptist Memorial Health Care TeleHealth Administrator. “Our Market VPs for Operations meet weekly with Priority and receive performance reports for all locations. With our integrated network, leaders are better able to identify trends and opportunities for improvement, and opportunities for expansion in our medical transport.”

Another key objective of the implementation project was to leverage the vehicles for brand awareness across the established system footprint. To that end, Priority Ambulance created a new subsidiary, Baptist Ambulance, a member of the Priority family of companies that operates with ambulances under Baptist name and logo.

Priority Ambulance and Baptist Memorial Health Care leadership cut the ribbon to the co-located dispatch center and PPC. From left to right are BMHCC Vice President of Hospital and Affiliate Integration Derick Ziegler, BMHCC CEO of Memphis Division Randy King, BMHCC Executive Vice President and COO Paul DePriest, MD; Priority Ambulance CEO Bryan Gibson, Priority Ambulance Chief Growth Officer Glenn Leland and BMHCC TeleHealth Administrator Katie Morrissette.

A final goal was to improve patient flow efficiency through transportation. This was accomplished through the integration of Priority Ambulance’s dispatch center with Baptist’s bed management system/transfer center at the Patient Placement Center (PPC). The PPC is staffed with experienced registered nurses that track the status and manage all 2,700 hospital beds in the Baptist system while facilitating transfers and assignments of beds from all 21 Baptist hospitals from one central location. In addition, nurses can assist with air launch for a critical case. This is accomplished via the TeleTracking Technology Transfer Center system. By co-locating its dispatch center in this facility, Priority Ambulance can add ambulance transport to the functions of the PPC’s capabilities in the areas it serves further enhancing and aligning all mission critical services for safe, effective patient movement among Baptist hospitals, and upon  discharge to post–acute levels of care. Approximately 6,000 calls a month now route through the Priority-staffed ambulance dispatch center.

“Patients come to our hospitals because of Baptist’s stellar reputation for care, so our patients and families are satisfied when they stay within our network,” said Ziegler. “The strategic partnership with Priority has allowed Baptist to keep more patients within the Baptist system by allowing us to move patients within our system more efficiently. The integrated dispatch center and the Patient Placement Center more quickly and easily facilitate transport within our hospital network for more specialized levels of care. Integration improves not only the patient and family experience, but also our physicians. The treating physicians at the receiving hospital have immediate and complete access to the patients’ medical history and current medical status because of the Baptist electronic health record.”

The integration of system-wide the Patient Placement Center and ambulance dispatch was one of the first in the country and has impacted patient movement throughout the hospital network and communities where Baptist provides 9-1-1 service. In Booneville, Mississippi, streamlined communication between the 9-1-1 communications center and hospital system resulted in a 40 percent increase in 9-1-1 transports to the closest emergency department at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Booneville.

Ambulance operations mangers gathers from each of the 10 medical facilities served by Priority Ambulance

Additionally, Priority Ambulance has been able to increase transfer volume by approximately 40 percent in Memphis since assuming operations in April 2017, and that upward trend has been mirrored at facilities across Baptist’s system.

“We are constantly looking for ways that we can better integrate and partner with Baptist for the benefit of its patients,” said Priority Ambulance CEO Bryan Gibson. “In our first year of service, we have built a strong foundation of efficient communication and partnership. Together, we can continue to grow our services, further enhance our performance and identify innovative new advances to continually raise the bar on medical transport for Baptist patients.”

Additionally, through integration and better partnership, Priority Ambulance has been able to provide significant value additions to Baptist Memorial Health Care, including implementing ProQA technology and training in its dispatch system, implementing computer automated dispatch (CAD) systems in its 9-1-1 areas, and utilizing system status management and deployment strategy to improve on-time performance for Baptist hospitals and the communities served. Through teamwork, Baptist and Priority continually look for new, innovative ways that patient experience and care can be improved through integration.