What is Wait Time in NEMT and How To Reduce It

What is Wait Time in NEMT and How To Reduce It

By ensuring patients can easily get rides to hospitals, clinics, and healthcare facilities, Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT) plays a vital role in healthcare. 

That said, wait times can be detrimental to NEMT operations. By definition, it is the time NEMT drivers have to wait before the passenger is ready for the trip.

As inevitable as they are in medical transportation, wait times can be shortened. Reduced wait times are always in the best interests of the patient, the healthcare provider, and the NEMT service provider. After all, we’re talking about enhancing a growing market sporting a 9% compound annual growth rate and projected to reach $15.58 billion globally by 2028.

By reducing NEMT wait times, patients are assured of timely transportation, which, in turn, allows them to access essential healthcare services without unnecessary delays. At the same time by reducing driver wait time you can improve on-time performance

In a way, reduced wait time in NEMT answers the concern: how to reduce wait time in healthcare.


Examples of NEMT Wait Times

Increased NEMT wait times can stem from several factors, such as:

Patients needing extra time to gather their belongings or complete personal care routines. They may also need more time to ensure they have all the required documentation for the healthcare appointment. 

A patient's appointment going beyond the scheduled time. NEMT drivers will have to wait until the patient finishes the appointment and arrives at the designated meeting area.

Charging for Wait Times

Most NEMT providers have policies and fee structures in place to account for wait times. This ensures their costs are covered. 

Based on 15-30 minute blocks, a wait time fee on top of the base rate and mileage charges is usually levied.

Impact of Wait Time in NEMT

Wait time in NEMT can have a significant impact on patients. It can also affect the efficiency of the overall healthcare system.

NEMT Resource Utilization

Extended wait times can impact the efficiency of NEMT providers. Having to wait longer for patients can lead to idle time and underutilization of vehicles and personnel. 

This undermines NEMT providers as well as healthcare organizations in serving more patients. Not to mention how it impacts the patients’ access to care. It can also affect the revenue opportunities of the NEMT provider.

Scheduling Challenges

Prolonged wait times disrupt the schedules of NEMT providers. Creating a domino effect, it can lead to delayed or rescheduled pick-ups and drop-offs. Needless to say, this can cause operational inefficiencies and decrease customer satisfaction. 

It also increases the administrative burden for the NEMT service provider. Rescheduling appointments and adjusting transportation routes require more work.

Workforce Productivity

Wait times can directly impact the productivity and morale of NEMT drivers. Excessive waiting periods can lead to frustration and reduced job satisfaction, which, in turn, lowers their productivity. This can culminate in high turnover, low driver retention, and increased recruitment overhead. 

Not to mention how all this leads to operational challenges and costs for NEMT providers.

Service Quality and Reputation

Wait times can influence the patients' perception of NEMT providers whose reputations may be at stake.

Prolonged wait times can lead to dissatisfied patients sending out negative feedback. These are ingredients for the potential loss of future business opportunities.

Strategies for Reducing Wait Time in NEMT

Strategies for Reducing Wait Time in NEMTReducing wait time in NEMT is crucial for improving patient satisfaction. It also enhances the efficiency of the overall NEMT processes.

Here’s how to reduce wait time in NEMT:

Efficient Scheduling and Routing

Implementing advanced scheduling and routing systems can help reduce wait times.

One way to go about it is to optimize the allocation of resources. NEMT providers must streamline the planning process. They can be proactive in tackling factors such as traffic conditions. They must also be better aligned with patient preferences, understand the type of transportation required, and how much the load time can be.

Clear Communication and Expectation Setting

Effective communication between NEMT providers, healthcare facilities, and patients is essential to reduce wait times. Providers should clearly communicate estimated arrival times (windows) to patients. They should also communicate the importance of being ready within that time frame. 

On the other hand, patients should provide accurate information about their specific needs. They should be aware of the consequences of delays in their healthcare access. 

Educating patients about being prompt for transportation can help reduce wait times.

Patient Readiness Education

NEMT providers can also provide guidelines and resources to patients about NEMT readiness. Patients can be instructed on what to expect, what to bring, and how to be ready for pick-up.  Using an automated calling system also helps to remind passengers about their trips, timing and it can even prevent no-shows in the NEMT process

The readiness education can also be about timely transportation and the impact of delays. It should also touch on the benefits of prompt access to healthcare services.

Streamlined Patient Assistance

Collaborating with healthcare facilities can help streamline patient readiness for transportation. This is especially true for nursing homes. 

Establishing efficient NEMT operations protocols for patient preparation can reduce wait times. This includes coordinating with facility staff to ensure patients are ready for pickup.

Real-Time Updates and Tracking

NEMT passenger apps or text-based notifications can help patients stay updated about service status and timings. It can inform them about any unexpected delays should they arise.

Implementing tracking systems allows NEMT providers to monitor drivers and vehicles in real time. This enables them to address any issues that may cause wait time delays. 

Continuous Process Improvement

NEMT providers should continually evaluate their operations and workflows to find areas for improvement. This includes analyzing data on wait times and identifying bottleneck and delay patterns.

Implementing changes based on such insights is crucial. It can help optimize efficiency and reduce wait times.

The Role of Stakeholders in Reducing Wait Time

Healthcare providers and patients must be diligent in reducing NEMT wait times. Both parties should prioritize being ready for transportation within the designated arrival window. This includes timely gathering of belongings and completing necessary paperwork. 

Patients must also communicate any delays with regard to their readiness to NEMT providers. This allows the NEMT provider to make adjustments in scheduling, and in the process, reduce wait times. More importantly, this prevents the snowball effect it can have on their appointments.

NEMT providers must also be informed about specific needs or assistance that patients may have. This can help ensure appropriate resource allocation and reduce delays.

RouteGenie: The Holistic Solution for Streamlined and Efficient NEMT Services Delivery

RouteGenie: The Holistic Solution for Streamlined and Efficient NEMT Services DeliveryIf the reduced wait time is the name of the game in NEMT services, RouteGenie is the perfect solution.

As a purpose-built software for NEMT providers, RouteGenie houses a comprehensive set of modules to optimize and reduce wait times. It streamlines scheduling, billing, routing, and dispatching processes. 

RouteGenie offers both a passenger app and driver app. This facilitates seamless communication and coordination.

RouteGenie’s capabilities include the following:

  • Dynamically identifying the best vehicle for each passenger and optimizing multi-load opportunities.
  • Simplifying electronic billing and payment tracking.
  • Consolidating trip requests from various sources, including brokers and private pay customers.
  • Sending alerts and reminders to keep vehicles and drivers insured and certified. This enables NEMT providers to easily stay up to date with government regulations.
  • Creating fair and efficient schedules and optimizing routes to maximize productivity.
  • Automated sending of reminders. Communication enablement with passengers before and during trips reduces the number of no-shows.
  • The NEMT driver app helps provide real-time connectivity between drivers and dispatchers.
  • Enabling drivers to collect payments directly through the app (streamlined payment).
  • Allowing clients to book and track rides and communicate with drivers during transit. Clients can also rate their experiences and make changes to upcoming trip details.
  • Simplifying HR-related operational management. It helps NEMT providers with recruitment tracking. It also helps in storing and managing important documents. These include hiring records, timesheets, commissions, and license renewals.


Excessive wait times can result in delayed or missed medical appointments. It hampers access to essential care and increases stress and inconvenience for patients.

By reducing wait times, NEMT providers can enhance the healthcare experience for patients. They can promote better health outcomes. They get to contribute to a more accessible healthcare system for all

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About the author

Yurii Martynov
Yurii Martynov

As RouteGenie's Marketing Director, Yurii gained deep knowledge in the NEMT industry. He is an expert in marketing, utilizing all marketing channels to build RouteGenie's brand and to make sure NEMT providers have access to powerful NEMT software that can boost their growth. Yurii shares his knowledge by writing content on topics related to marketing, and the healthcare industry: medical transportation, home care, and medical billing.  The author assumes no responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions in the content of this site. The information contained in this site is provided on an "as is" basis with no guarantees of completeness, accuracy, usefulness or timeliness.