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Removing Barriers to Health Care

OATS Transit driver Linda Wheeler assists rider Alice P. into the van after a medical appointment

For many Missourians, getting to hospitals, clinics and other medical facilities isn’t as easy of a task as it sounds. Transportation is often cited as a barrier to proper health care, leading to missed medical appointments and poor illness management. More than 30% of Missouri’s 6 million population live in rural areas with limited access to health care and other necessities. Without reliable transportation, getting to medical appointments consistently can be a challenge. Nationwide, about 3.6 million patients miss medical appointments because they lack transportation.

OATS Transit, one of Missouri’s leading non-emergency medical transportation providers, strives to be part of the solution to remove such barriers that lead to prolonged health risks. “The key to any successful transportation program is frequency, safety and reliability,” said Dorothy Yeager, OATS Transit Executive Director. “Our company partners with many healthcare facilities statewide - both urban and rural - to meet the needs of their patients.”

For many years, OATS Transit has collaborated with Mercy Hospital in St. Louis to get patients to the Head Injury Resource Center. These patients have suffered from a stroke, accident or other traumatic brain injury and are in need of occupational, physical and speech therapies. The therapies help patients enhance their quality of life, and regain their health. Once the Hospital determines who is eligible for transportation, they arrange with OATS Transit to provide the service. There are more than 50 patients at any given time utilizing our services to get to three St. Louis head injury clinics operated by Mercy Hospital. “The ability to have transportation taken care of by OATS Transit has been a huge relief to our patients,” said Trisha Nance, Supervisor of Therapy Services at Mercy Hospital St. Louis. “It takes the burden off the patient and their families knowing they can get to their appointments.”

OATS Transit driver Donna Chism leaving Nevada Regional Medical Center after dropping a rider off for an appointment

In 1988, Congressman Pete Stark introduced legislation to prohibit physician “self-referral.” This severely impacted many low income and elderly clients who relied upon hospitals, clinics and kidney foundations to assist in paying for their transportation for necessary services. In 2017, federal statutes under the Safe Harbor Act brought about changes affecting hospitals and clinics, allowing them to provide free or reduced cost transportation to established patients within 25 miles of the health care facility which the individual is being transported, or within 50 miles if the individual resides in a rural area. Contracting for service with providers like OATS Transit helps hospitals comply with these regulations while providing a superior level of service for their clients.

In rural areas, OATS Transit partners with hospitals such as Nevada Regional Medical Center, Fitzgibbon Hospital, Golden Valley Memorial Hospital and Bates County Memorial Hospital to assure patients get to and from their facilities. The hospitals have pre-approved locations that patients go to, and then it is up to the individual to call OATS Transit to schedule their ride. This means less time for hospital staff coordinating and scheduling transportation so they can spend more time caring for their patients. For us, it means more efficient routing of buses and less unproductive wait time for our drivers. With reliable, consistent transportation, there are less hospital re-admits and better overall health.

According to Tracy Walkup, OATS Transit Midwest Regional Director, there is an overall cost savings of about 25-30% for both the hospitals and our company with our staff taking over the scheduling and routing trips.

“When hospitals contract with OATS Transit, the riders have free or reduced cost transportation to their appointments,” Walkup said. “They also miss fewer scheduled appointments; making their health outcomes more positive so it’s a win-win for all.”

OATS Transit may be able to help your healthcare facility save time, resources, and money, while helping patients have peace of mind that their transportation issues have been resolved. Give us a call at 888-875-6287 to find out more.


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