It’s nearly impossible to keep your operation functioning at peak efficiency when you don’t have all the scheduling information you need. Every NEMT operation is facing the issue of coordinating return rides and Will Calls and trying to manage and reduce the impact on clients and bottom lines. As a NEMT software vendor, we always advocate on the side of automation to not only build schedules quickly, but to also handle real time changes as they occur. But there are other ways that providers can modify their operational processes in order to reduce the destabilizing effect of a Will Call.
Let’s first start with automation. NEMT software helps to build a daily schedule based upon a number of different variables: trip type, vehicle type, single and multi-leg trips, individual mobility needs, and of course the need to coordinate return rides. When you allow the software to automatically schedule return rides, you’re creating the “best case scenario” for your day. While automated scheduling software can adjust in real time to issues that develop on a route, such as added trips or no shows, there is still the challenge of the Will Call.
One possible solution is to avoid Will Calls by setting up all return rides with defined pick-up times thereby, maintaining the predictability of the schedule. But what happens to a client’s trip if an appointment gets cut short or cancelled altogether? Can you encourage clients to call and reschedule a trip with enough advance notice to prevent a vehicle and driver from wasting time that could be spent serving other riders? Some providers set up all return trips as Will Calls, assuming all pick up times will be completely random. This may be an operational error.
In many cases, a Will Call is required because a client is engaged in an activity with an unknown length of time. If they’re going shopping for groceries, there’s no way of knowing exactly how long that may take. If they’re going to a doctor’s office for a straightforward appointment, the length of time required can be better anticipated. Some NEMT providers simply don’t accept will calls, which is one solution. They schedule the client’s trip and set a defined return pick-up time based on the type of appointment.. For example, an appointment for an x-ray, counseling or dialysis generally requires a predictable amount of time. If a client is shopping, they can be encouraged to provide a time estimate for their scheduled activity at the time they book their transportation so they can be picked up at a specific time and location.
The question you need to ask is: how many Will Calls are you booking? Of these, can you eliminate some or much of the randomness? Employing NEMT software to streamline trip booking and to make scheduling and dispatching more efficient is one the software’s major strengths. However, you can also consider adopting more effective practices for the way you schedule. The more stable your schedule is to begin with, the more your NEMT software can function to its best ability, allowing you to more easily handle urgent situations that can develop throughout the service day .
We're happy to announce a webinar that can provide useful information on how NEMT experts have dealt with will calls.