Increase in Collections Enables El Campo EMS to Add Staff, Equipment and More

The El Campo EMS Department serves a Texas agricultural community spanning a massive 640 square miles. Its coverage area encompasses all of western Wharton County (which includes the city of El Campo) and the small, unincorporated communities of Louise, Danevang, Pierce and Taiton.

Although the region maintains fairly steady population numbers, its tax base fluctuates annually based on the valuation of local mineral interests, creating budget challenges for civil services.  The area’s vast rural geography also means a significant volume of air transports for its EMS Department to make the often long journey to local hospitals.

Director Chase Nielsen heads up El Campo’s EMS agency, which is a mobile intensive care unit service operating at the highest level licensed by the state of Texas. He leads a staff of 14 full-time and 27 part-time medics.

“We’re always looking for ways to improve the service and care we provide for our citizens,” Nielsen says. “When we brought on EMERGICON, we were hoping to not only increase collections, but also to make across-the-board enhancements to our agency.”

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Increasing reimbursements by 25% in year one

Nielsen and his team began working with EMERGICON in 2014.  Within the first year, El Campo’s collections increased by 25% with the same average call volume. Nielsen attributes the dramatic spike in reimbursements to EMERGICON’s hands-on billing procedures, attention to detail and customer service.  The agency quickly set out to use the new funds to make improvements in several areas.

“Since we’ve been working with EMERGICON, we’ve been able to add staff to our full-time ranks, which is an area where we had a big need. We were heavily staffed on the part-time ranks, but our full-timers were overworked,” Nielsen recalls.

In addition to adding full-time medics, El Campo was able give its staff more time off and recruit several professionals from neighboring counties to meet the city’s residency requirement for full-time medics.  The agency has now set a goal to add a third medic on every shift.

Making equipment upgrades to improve patient care & staff safety

“We’ve always had great equipment, but as a result of our increased collections, we’ve been able to add things such as the LUCAS device to help on our CPR calls,” Nielsen says.  The device enables El Campo medics to avoid standing while doing chest compressions, significantly increasing their safety during transports that can take up to 17 minutes to due to the area’s huge square mileage.  In addition, the device allows the agency to reduce the number of staff needed to make CPR transports.

“We’ve also recently purchased the HT70 ventilator that does ventilation, CPAP and BiPAP,” says Nielsen.  He notes that in addition to improving patient care, the equipment upgrades serve as an important recruitment tool.

Since starting with EMERGICON, Nielsen estimates that El Campo’s gross EMS collections have gone from approximately $400,000 to $900,000 in 2017.  “There’s no doubt that the increase in collections has directly translated into better care for our community,” he notes.

Strengthening documentation and compliance processes

One of Nielsen’s other goals in working with EMERGICON was to improve his agency’s documentation and compliance procedures.  Nielsen and his team receive regular documentation and compliance training from EMERGICON, along with daily support for questions. “They’ve really helped us get on track and stay current with the ever-changing compliance landscape,” he says.

Additionally, EMERGICON assisted El Campo with securing their approval for the 1115 waiver program, which supports EMS providers with the possibility of additional payments where the provider’s allowable costs exceed the reimbursement from Medicaid.

“Without EMERGICON, there’s no way we could have navigated those waters on our own,” Nielsen says.  “They provided invaluable resources and connected us with the law firm that helped us gather all the application information and prepare it for the state government.”

Thanks to the 1115 program being in place, El Campo expects to bring in an additional $90,000 net in 2017.

Nielsen concludes, “For anybody that’s considering giving EMERGICON a shot, I think it’s the best thing you can do for your agency, for your people, for your bottom line. They’ve set the bar very high for billing services in the state of Texas.”