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HIPAA and Mobile Devices: What Your Service Needs to Know

For ambulance services, HIPAA compliance is a particularly sensitive issue. Because of the sensitive nature of the health data that EMS and EMT professionals deal with on a daily basis, HIPAA Privacy and Security standards must be carefully adhered to.

This issue becomes even more sensitive when you consider that most of the data collected during pre-hospital care will likely be collected, tracked, and documented on a mobile device. Laptops, smartphones, and tablets are indispensable tools for ambulance care. Most of these devices will have access to electronic health records (EHR) platforms, which will in turn be connected to the rest of a hospital’s EHR data.

While mobile devices can provide convenience in life-or-death situations, they are also particularly vulnerable to the risk of a data breach. A data breach of unsecured health information can lead to serious HIPAA violations and put patient privacy at risk.

The kind of health information that these devices have access to is called protected health information, or PHI. PHI is any demographic information that can be used to identify a patient. Common examples of PHI include names, dates of birth, medical information, insurance ID numbers, addresses, full facial photos, and telephone numbers, to name a few.

The HIPAA Rules set specific standards for maintaining the privacy, security, and integrity of PHI. Though the regulation can seem complex, the standards are in place to safeguard PHI. As per HIPAA, ambulance services necessarily fall under the category of Covered Entities, meaning that they are responsible for maintaining compliance with both the HIPAA Privacy Rule and the HIPAA Security Rule.

These two rules set limits for how and when PHI must be stored and accessed. Below, we list a few of the major components of the HIPAA Rules that all ambulance services can implement in order to keep PHI safe and secure on the go.

  • All mobile devices that can access PHI must have full-disc encryption. Additionally, all devices should be routinely backed-up on encrypted servers. In the event that a device is lost or stolen, full-disc encryption will keep hackers or thieves from accessing sensitive health data.
  • Your organization should have HIPAA policies and procedures in place pertaining to mobile devices taken “off-site.” This would necessarily include all laptops, tablets, and smartphones with access to PHI that are used in pre-hospital care in an ambulance. By outlining when devices are permitted to be used, who is permitted to use them, and how they are to be handled in off-site settings, your organization will mitigate the risk to PHI stored on these devices.
  • Keep a full inventory of all devices within your organization that can access or handle PHI in any way. Routine check-ups on the condition and location of devices listed in your inventory will help ensure that devices are not misplaced. And in the event that a device is misplaced or stolen, organization officials will notice as soon as the inventory is reviewed so that action can be taken to remedy the breach.
  • Access to PHI on mobile devices and in pre-hospital settings should be limited only to essential members of the organization’s workforce. This is known as the Minimum Necessary Standard. It’s a part of the HIPAA Privacy Rule that states that access to PHI must be limited based on employees’ roles, and that when access is granted, it should be limited to the minimum access necessary for each employee to perform their role.

These are just a few of the ways that ambulance services can protect PHI and comply with HIPAA mobile device standards.

In addition to the actions listed above, a total compliance program that addresses the full extent of the law must be in place in order to prevent HIPAA violations and data breaches.

Addressing HIPAA compliance can help ambulance services confidently treat their patients without worrying about the risk of data breaches or government fines.

What I Wish I Had Known

Congratulations! You were selected for the Paramedic Supervisor position, if you accept, we’ll start the transition immediately.

I remember the excitement I had when I heard those words so many years ago. The excitement that carried strongly through 2 days of celebrating with my husband, anticipating the new world I was about to be part of; making a mental list of all the mountains I couldn’t wait to move! This excitement was quickly drowned by a sinking feeling deep in my gut. It felt like running out of gas on a country highway at one in the morning and your cell phone is dead; it’s dark, there is nobody around, and you cannot phone a friend.

Whether it comes right away, or later—because of the reaction of people we thought were friends or feeling overwhelmed in a new situation you were expected to handle with precision, we’ve all felt that feeling as a new leader. By sharing our stories with one another, the success and the failures, we all grow.

I remember getting so much advice from those who walked the road before me, some solicited some not. The stories were sometimes shocking, often comical and always gave me perspective and insight into my own blunders – most importantly the stories many shared with me taught me the importance of humility and the ability to laugh at myself, admit my mistakes, learn and move on. At some point, the tide started turning, and friends and colleagues began asking me for my stories and advice. Although I often felt like I wasn’t experienced (i.e. old enough) to be offering any advice I realized it’s not necessarily the age or years of experience behind the story that makes it meaningful. The power is in the ability to share an experience through storytelling—finding common ground amongst the hierarchy of titles and job descriptions.

I think it is easy to lose sight of how our words and actions can affect others as we are wrapped up in our day to day and moving down the checklist of tasks. The influence of a leader in an organization, even an informal leader, is long lasting and not to be taken for granted. Over the past year, I’ve been talking to many EMS leaders of the past and present. I’ve been asking them what they wish they would have known when they first started their leadership journey, and what advice they might give to others just starting out. Here are 10 of the most common answers I received.

Top 10 Things I Wish I Had Known

  1. I wish I would have known I could be myself. Being myself earned me the role, but suddenly it didn’t seem like enough. At first, I thought others were putting all this pressure on me to be an amazing supervisor immediately – in hindsight, I realize I was putting the pressure on myself and it was totally unnecessary. Being myself allowed me to be a more effective supervisor for my team and I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to figure it out.
  2. I wish I would have learned earlier how important listening is. Listening to understand your people, listening to learn and listening to understand the politics that are happening beyond the surface.
  3. I wish I would have known that I didn’t have to be right all the time; I wasn’t expected to be right all the time. I was only expected to be an honest and reliable resource for my team.
  4. Change is slow. PAINFULLY slow. In EMS there is constant instant gratification – you see a problem with a patient, you fix it, you drop them off. Transitioning to an administrative role and learning that change is slow and takes time (SO MUCH TIME!) is more difficult than I ever would have imagined. I had to really learn to see the long game.
  5. It’s not a “day job”. As a leader, you’re never off duty. Whether you’re on a regular rotation as a shift supervisor, or in the office as a manager or director, EMS is a 24/7 world which means you work nights, weekends and holidays right along with your team. You may not be on a truck or at a station—but you’re still available to them all the time.
  6. I wish I would have understood how important mission, vision, and values really are to a company, and how important it is to talk about them with staff.
  7. We’re all learning, and it is OK to ask for help.
  8. Just because a staff member is asking me a question, it does not mean they are challenging my authority. As a leader, it took me a long time to realize that I should embrace a staff member challenging a decision so long as they are doing it in a constructive manner.
  9. I wish I would have known how much of an impact I have on people. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way. I’ve had staff bring up conversations we had years ago, and I had forgotten all about it—but they were still carrying that encounter with them.
  10. That it wasn’t for me. I thought I wanted to be a supervisor – a leader. I was wrong. I was unhappy with the role and everyone knew it but me, and I was becoming destructive.
    When I came to the realization that I wasn’t the right person for the role, my boss allowed me a front row seat to the best example of leadership I have personally witnessed. He allowed me to step back from the role but didn’t forget about me; he continued to invest in me as an employee and as an individual despite the certain protest of others. To this day, he continues to provide guidance on my professional endeavors and is someone I truly look to for honest advice.

Ransomware: A Ticking Time Bomb for Health Care

By Cindy Elbert
President, Cindy Elbert Insurance Services, Inc

If you’re doing business online, you need cyber-insurance. This fact was never made truer than on May 12, 2017 when 50,000 businesses in at least 74 countries were hit by a ransomware attack code named “WannaCry”. Hackers demanded companies to pay a $300 ransom fee or their files would be published on the Internet. The data thieves targeted mostly hospitals and other medical facilities because their data not only included names, home addresses, addiction histories, financial information and religious affiliations but also disclosed patients’ mental health and medical diagnoses, HIV statuses and sexual assault and domestic violence reports. A gold mine of personal information for those with dark purposes.

Two days earlier, a data breach at the Bronx Lebanon Hospital Center in New York compromised the medical records of at least 7,000 people. According to NBC News, “Leaks from the Rsync servers, which transfer and synchronize files across systems, are common. How many more nude photos of patients or ultrasound images will be exposed because of misconfigured Rsync backups?”

On May 4, 2017, a group calling themselves TheDarkOverload uploaded almost 180,000 stolen patient/medical records from three companies onto the Internet because they refused to pay a ransom. The databases stolen were in the .csv format and contained health information about cardiac diagnoses and psychiatric conditions such as depression, along with date of birth and social security numbers.

Most ransomware attacks are led by organized criminal groups utilizing a network of computers infected with malware that then poisons other computers once a spam message is opened. An example of a spam malware would be emails falsely marked as being from a co-worker or friend asking a recipient to open an attached file. Or, an email might come from a trusted institution, like a bank or merchant, asking you to perform a specific task. In other instances, hackers will use scare tactics such as claiming that a victim’s computer has been used for illegal activities to bully victims. When the malware is executed, it encrypts files and demands a ransom to unlock them.

Imagine the nightmare scenario of medical teams out on the field relying on electronic devices such as tablets, laptops, smartphones and PDAs to access patient care records suddenly discovering that their data has been locked, captured by malicious malware., held for ransom with lives in the balance.

Companies need the protection cyber liability insurance offers now more than ever.

Why Your Company Needs Cyber Liability Insurance

  • A single data breach could cost your company thousands of dollars, not to mention the hit to your reputation.
  • Hackers can be halfway across the world—or at the desk next to you.
  • An employee losing a company laptop or cell phone could result in a major security breach.
  • The more personal information your company collects opens your exposure to the likelihood of a data breach attack.
  • As of March 28, 2017, Internet providers can collect and sell your web browser history opening more opportunities for data to be stolen.
  • The average forensic investigation runs $25,000 per server.

Cyberthreats By the Numbers

  • Sixty percent of uninsured small businesses close their doors within six months following a cyber attack.
  • According to the 2016 NetDiligence Cyber Claims study, Healthcare data breaches made up 19% of all breach sectors.
  • The average cost for a breached healthcare company is $717,000.
  • According to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s 2017 Data Breach report, almost 2 million records have been stolen so far this year, making up 22 percent of all breaches – and this is before the “WannaCry” ransomware attack.
  • Forty-seven states mandate that your company take certain measures in the event of a security breach

Protect Your Company

Ransomware attacks and cyber theft will not be defeated any time soon. So now is the time to ask: How do you store sensitive information? How do you control access to sensitive information? Do you utilize a firewall and protection software? Do you allow employees and others remote access to your data bases? Do you have a written security policy? And, most importantly, do you have cyber liability insurance? Is it safe? If your company stores customer information, especially billing and medical data, then there is no question about it: You must protect yourself from the growing legion of cyber predators. You need cyber liability insurance.

About the Author

Cindy Elbert is President of Cindy Elbert Insurance Services, Inc. She is a licensed Property & Casualty Insurance broker/agent, and a proud member of the American Ambulance Association, California Ambulance Association, Arizona Ambulance Association, and The Independent Agents Association.

Cindy has been assisting ambulance providers with their insurance needs since 1982. She understands your questions and concerns and with her relationships with insurance underwriters she can provide you with coverage and service you deserve.
www.ambulanceinsurance.com
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Time to Automate

Founded in 1964, now nationally recognized, Mohawk Ambulance Service is the largest privately owned ambulance service in upstate New York. Our organization services six emergency centers, makes 56,000 trips annually and employs a team of more than 250 staff members. Eighty percent of our trips are for emergency transports where patients are unknown, in critical condition or have no identifying information. Finding fast, efficient ways to verify demographics and discover insurance coverage for these patients is imperative for our revenue cycle and our bottom line.

We’ve always worked closely with our local hospitals and nursing homes to obtain information. Many standard processes have been refined over the years with checks and balances to verify coverage, screen deductibles and reduce eligibility-related rejections before claims are submitted to a payor. But our billing team knew we could do more to eliminate duplicate data entry and processing lag time.

This article describes our journey to a more streamlined billing process. It includes lessons learned and best-practice recommendations for other EMS providers looking to improve staff efficiency and reduce receivables.

First Stop: Real-Time Insurance Discovery

The first area we tackled was insurance discovery where we had three employees stationed. We focused on our self-pay patients and transports lacking complete demographic or insurance information. The goal was to eliminate manual steps and workflow lags—which we quickly achieved.

The original process involved building a list, submitting it to Payor Logic, waiting three days for feedback, and then re-entering information into our billing system. By bringing our vendors together to meet with our team, a real-time technology solution was developed and implemented.

Now our insurance verification team has immediate access to Payor Logic’s search capabilities. Insurance discovery is an online, real-time process. Lists, batches, searching websites and waiting for results have all been eliminated. Also, the two vendors built a crosswalk that integrates insurance coverage results back into our billing system to eliminate duplicate data entry and rekeying.

The productivity our verification team is now able to achieve is amazing. They now do the work of three staff with only two employees—a 30 percent boost in staff efficiency for insurance verification.

Billing also Gets Tech Boost

At Mohawk, we use a combination of technology solutions to support our revenue cycle. But each company worked independently—creating separate silos. Billers would have to search across several different systems, payor websites and the digital pages to collate all the various demographic and insurance data required to submit a claim. We had technology, but the process remained cumbersome and labor intensive.

By working with our vendors, we built points of integration to increase the number of claims processed without adding billing staff. For example, once a biller pulls up a trip, dozens of data elements from the billing system are uploaded into a single view to eliminate searching and save time.

Everything the biller needs to complete a claim is displayed in a consolidated view, consistent across all Mohawk companies. Billers can easily see patient signature, facility signature, narrative, vital signs, advanced life support and more. This level of integration eliminates the need to look at every page of the system to build the claim—saving dozens of hours every week.

Lessons Learned

Like most EMS providers, our mission is to uphold the highest standard of services with consistent devotion to delivering superior emergency medical care. And through this automation project, we took service excellence one step further—delivering world-class service throughout our billing process. We find more insurance coverage, reduce eligibility-related rejections, convert self-pay accounts and collect more revenue from the right source. Results thus far include:

  1. 30% improvement in staff efficiency for insurance verification
  2. 67% less time needed per case to screen for Medicare deductibles
  3. 100% elimination of wait times to discover billable insurance for self-pay patients

EMS providers looking to streamline the billing process should revisit their existing technology applications and engage in serious discussions with current vendors. New capabilities are out there and should be explored. The automation efforts described above have resulted in an efficiency uptick for Mohawk, despite being short staffed. New workflows for verification are being maintained by our team and next steps for automation expansion are being discussed. By keeping open communications and an ongoing dialogue with all parties involved, this automation experience has been a win-win for our business, our staff and our patients.

Maintaining Compliance Within an EMS Service

Maintaining compliance within an EMS service can be a daunting task, especially given the number of regulations that we must follow.

One way to look at EMS is if a trucking company married a hospital.

There are rules and regulations to abide by for an entire fleet of vehicles, from safe operation guidelines all the way down to the use and color of lights. Then there are requirements for a group of healthcare providers, which include necessary certifications such as CPR and knowledge of pertinent life-saving skills.

Not only does maintaining compliance keep vehicles and equipment running smoothly, but it can offer employees valuable peace of mind and keep everyone focused on the same goals of providing the best care possible.

I like to consider compliance an investment in common sense.

Employees know what is expected of them at all times, and they know what type of support their employer will provide to keep their skills sharp. In turn, an EMS service gains from being in good standing with regulators and from an engaged, confident workforce.

The benefits of a strong culture of compliance are immense. An organization that lives and breathes compliance can help ensure a smooth-running operation that features top-notch communication and quality providers who offer excellent care.

Journey to Compliance

These six key ways ensure compliance will serve as a roadmap to a strong culture in your organization:

  1. Start from the top: Backing from leadership ensures a strong culture of compliance. For certification and education compliance to stick, it starts with the attitudes of upper management, such as the board of directors, chiefs, officers, and day-to-day operations staff. Leaders must actively support all compliance efforts, including regular compliance-related reports, approving policies and having a general knowledge of the rules that govern EMS providers. Without the right tone from the top, an EMS service’s compliance efforts are usually undermined and ultimately fail. This results in issues with governing bodies, payers, scheduling and staffing.
  2. Commit to resources: Having the right personnel and systems in place are both vital to creating a strong compliance culture. The organization’s compliance staff should have experience in directing compliance efforts and supporting the evaluation of compliance-related risks. When it comes to certifications and education, compliance is always black and white. Knowing how to evaluate and respond to operational issues is important to maintaining compliance and successfully operating an EMS service. Systems that provide information to assist the service in complying with its obligations are a necessity.
  3. Have the write stuff: Developing written policies and procedures for compliance programs and internal controls is essential to adequately address regulatory requirements and an EMS service’s specific risks. Having these policies and procedures in writing sets the expectation of what is required of both managers and employees. Assessing risks before drafting these programs will help identify key areas where controls are needed. A compliance program should include how a service’s policies can be implemented from an operational perspective. This will include internal controls and standard operating procedures.
  4. Provide education: Providing the training for your EMS employees gives them peace of mind that they will be in compliance and acknowledges that the service values them.
  5. Test the system: Subjecting procedures to an independent review and audit ensures the compliance system is working correctly. This review provides an evaluation of where the EMS service’s compliance efforts stand. It also offers an opportunity to correct deficiencies before an outside regulatory audit is performed.
  6. Communicate more: Communication is vital to all organizations, but it can be the most difficult piece of the puzzle to achieve. With compliance-related responsibilities, sharing information is very helpful and, in some cases, required. Communicating expectations within EMS training programs is imperative. Reporting compliance efforts and noting any deficiencies should be a part of a communication strategy, especially if your state has an active medical director and/or board of EMS.

What is Reddit? (And Why EMS Leaders Should Care)

If you were asked to name the top 10 most popular websites in the United States today, I’m willing to bet that you could guess most of them: they are, in descending order of Alexa page view rankings, Google, YouTube, Facebook, Amazon, Yahoo, Wikipedia, Twitter, Reddit, Ebay, and LinkedIn.

“Wait,” you may be asking, “what is ‘Reddit,’ and how can it be in the top 10 most popular American websites if I’ve never even heard of it?”

As a self-appointed cultural ambassador for the millennial-heavy EMS workforce, I’d love to give you a basic introduction. Seasoned Redditors, feel free to skip this post. But those new to Reddit, or even social media in general, please hang in there—it is increasingly important for ambulance executives of all age groups and technology skill levels to “get” what is going on in influential online communities.

What is Reddit?

Reddit describes itself as “the front page of the internet.” What does that mean?

Reddit (usually styled lowercase as “reddit,” but I’m capping for clarity) is an online community platform allowing users to anonymously share, comment, and vote on links, images, personal stories and more in topic-specific “subreddits.” A user’s self-selected subreddits are merged into a personalized feed, which is often very different than the generic Reddit Front Page generated from the posts voted best across the whole site.

Wildly popular with millennials, Reddit is one of the most engaged and active digital communities in history. Reddit communities’ collective taste-making influence drives modern pop culture and politics in unprecedented ways, and the popularity and sway of the site is only growing.

I am sticking mostly to practicalities in this post, but highly recommend reading a little bit about the history of Reddit (2014 Mashable article, 2016 WSJ CEO interview), if you have a moment. The Wikipedia entry also gives a great overview.

Why should EMS leaders care?

Large swaths of your staff are routinely participating in Reddit communities, likely many times per week. For all that we hear about generational conflict in EMS organizations, wouldn’t it be great to gain some firsthand insight into the candid thoughts of EMTs and Paramedics across the country? Of course this only works if leaders approach Reddit (and the subs and threads of varying merit within) with an open mind—because of its inherently populist and anonymous nature, there is an ever-changing mix of valuable and abhorrent content that sometimes takes a little time to sort through.

Additionally, more and more people are electing to get their news, pop culture, and entertainment first through Reddit or other social media, instead of mainstream news sources. EMS leaders relying solely on information from TV newscasts or even the websites of traditional print journalism outlets are missing the backchannel dialogue and meta commentary that is shaping the way our industry is perceived.

Can Reddit participation help with EMS advocacy?

Many ambulance execs are unfamiliar with the fact that top politicians as diverse as President Obama and Gary Johnson choose to interact directly with Redditors, personally fielding user questions in the r/IamA sub. Reddit’s political commentary subs are also famed for the sometimes prescient, sometimes wacky user analysis of current affairs and election hoopla. Start with r/politics, the largest sub, to get a feel for the Reddit politosphere, then find your niche in some of the more targeted subs below. Not seeing your interest? Search the site for hundreds of other options ranging from radical to reactionary—or start your own.

How can I get started on Reddit?

We all have that kooky relative who doesn’t “get” Facebook, and so posts inappropriate rants or the equivalent of text voice mails on our walls. Don’t be “that guy” (or gal) on Reddit—although most people are nice, not everyone is patient, and some users may report your post to moderators for removal. Also, it is just good manners to follow the norms of any community in which you participate, be it face-to-face or online. Here are some easy steps to ensure that you become a valued contributor to the Reddit community.

  1. Create an account. Note: Do not use a variation of your real name or company name in your username. This is not Facebook, or even Twitter. It is crucial that unless you are a world leader (u/PresidentObama), celebrity (u/GovSchwarzenegger, u/williamshatner), or other very public figure (u/thisisbillgates, u/ColChrisHadfield) that you keep your personal information as private as possible for your own safety.
  2. Curate your subs.
    • Login to reddit, then visit your subscription page to remove yourself from any default subs that don’t interest you. For me, this meant immediately axing everything related to sports (sorry, I mean, “Go Sox!“).
    • Next, find and subscribe to many subs that interest you. There are thousands of subreddits for everything from r/cooking to r/gardening to r/motorcyles to r/parenting to r/books, and that is just scratching the surface. Typically large, general-interest subs will list more niche subs in their sidebars to make them easy to find.
  3. Lurk and get used to voting. Read your feed, or peruse a specific sub in-depth, upvoting posts and comments based on quality, not your level of agreement with the poster’s opinion. Typically, it is best to lurk (read without posting) for a month or two before you leap into the fray to get a sense for how each community interacts.
  4. Start posting and commenting. Now that you have some context for the types of conversations going on in your favorite subs, you’re ready to start submitting new posts and commenting on the posts of others, in addition to voting. It is really important to read Reddit’s content rules and Reddiquette guidelines, as well as the sidebar rules for your particular sub, before posting. Also, it is pretty much universally forbidden to share with the group any personally identifying information, even about yourself. Don’t get overwhelmed—most of the rules are common sense, and the time investment will pay off when you experience the thrill of sharing ideas and news with like-minded people from around the world.

Are there EMS-specific subs?

There are many EMS-focused subreddits, ranging from the (mostly) serious to the ridiculous. Here are just a few:

  • r/EMS – by far the largest, with 21k subscribers as of today. Diverse mix of jokes, personal stories, protocol questions, opinions on employers, and more.
  • r/RealEMS (2k subscribers) and r/TalesFromEMS aka r/TFEMS (3k subscribers) smaller subs focused on the perceived “real” side of EMS.
  • r/911Dispatchers – (2k subscribers) – Sub targeting dispatch professionals.
  • r/EMScringepics, r/LookImAFireFighter, etc – smaller subreddits where some popular EMS sartorial choices are mocked. Very definitely Not Nice, but may strike your funny bone if you have a certain sense of humor.
  • r/firefighting (11k subscribers) – sub serving firefighters, but often touches on EMS topics

Hint: Sort by “TOP” then choose a timeframe to catch up on the best (or at least most popular) posts in a particular sub.

My service is mentioned on Reddit in a negative manner. Should I respond?

If someone posts something negative on Reddit (or Facebook, or Twitter, etc, etc) about the organization to which you’ve dedicated so much time and love, it can be very tempting to fire off your side of the story in response. However, it is almost always inadvisable to go in “guns blazing” on an anonymous message board, particularly if you aren’t very familiar with the norms for the specific sub in which you would respond.

If you really feel you must set the record straight, I suggest asking three other sensible Redditors and your attorney to review before posting, to make sure that you don’t accidentally open your organization up to a lawsuit or media nightmare. You may also want to create a separate “throwaway” username before replying, as anything you’ve previously commented or posted under your usual username is publicly visible. No matter how innocuous your past activity may be, it can and will be used against you in the court of public opinion (see: Ken Bone Reddit controversy).

My service is mentioned on Reddit in a positive manner. Should I respond?

In this case, it is a hard maybe. The tricky thing is that you want your organization to avoid being perceived as “Big Brother,” particularly in response to anything (good or bad) that might have been posted by one of your own employees. Given Reddit’s higher level focus on anonymity than, say, Facebook, even a “thanks so much, so glad to be your favorite employer!” reply can seem creepy or intrusive, depending on context. It may be best to just privately enjoy the knowledge that thousands are reading your unsolicited praises (and likely looking for job openings at your service).

If there are no HIPAA or human resources concerns involved, you can enlist the help of seasoned Redditors in crafting a response that is right in tone for your service.

Can I market my ambulance service on Reddit?

Commercial self-promotion of any kind is very much frowned upon by the Reddit community. Viral marketing, or any post planting or vote manipulation that can be perceived as viral marketing, even more so. For a glimpse at the level of energy around this issue, please see r/HailCorporate, or consider the vitriol directed at users who create alternate “sockpuppet” accounts to upvote their own posts. Any kind of advertising outside of appropriate subs that specifically allow it (or actual Reddit ads) is risky at best, and may completely backfire.

Can I post job listings to Reddit?

Read the sidebar rules of the subreddit you’re considering posting in to see if commercial offers are permitted (for example, counter-intuitively, r/jobs forbids job postings). Your may wish to consider posting to one of the subs dedicated to job seekers, including r/jobopenings, r/youngjobs, and r/jobbit, or your closest local job sub.

Another thing to consider is buying an ad on the Reddit site, then running it in EMS-specific subs, particularly if you’re open to paying relocation for medics from other areas, or if you are willing to train individuals coming from other industries.

Note: recruitment is not yet a primary Reddit focus, so you may or may not have much luck at this point. However, as  more people join Reddit and rely on it new and different ways, this is likely to change.

Glossary

  • Default sub—Default subreddits are subs considered to have the right mix of popularity and quality to be automatically included in new users’ subreddit subscriptions. You can remove default subreddits that you are not interested in following on your subscription page after you create a login.
  • KarmaWhen a post or comment is submitted, other users can vote it up or down. “Karma,” divided into post karma and comment karma, is a loose indicator of the quality of a thread. You can track your own karma on your profile page, but it has no monetary or other value. In theory, voting is supposed to be based on the quality and relevance of the post or comment, but this doesn’t always play out perfectly. Some users have high overall karma scores because they post very relevant articles or incredibly insightful posts, others because they draw sketches or write poems related to posts, and still others because they are known for submitting posts or comments that the community finds funny.
  • NSFL—an initialism for “Not Safe for Life.” This is used in the title of a post to indicate offensive content that shows or makes reference to gore, death, serious injury, the abuse of animals or people, etc. I would very strongly suggest that even the most hardened EMS folks stay away from most of these posts and the comments sections about them—NSFL posts do not bring out the best in humanity.
  • NSFW—an initialism for “Not Safe for Work.” This is used in the title of a post to potentially sensitive content involving any kind of nudity or sex. Depending on context and the subreddit in which it is posted, this flag can be used for posts covering everything from a news photo of the Janet Jackson Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction to actual pornography. Use your best judgment.
  • OP—like most other internet forums, on Reddit “OP” refers to “original poster,” and is a generic term used in comments to refer to the creator of the thread you’re currently reading.
  • MemeMost folks have probably heard of memes (pron. “meems”, not “meh-mehs,” “me-mes,” etc), or may even have shared some around the office or on Facebook. Reddit has a variety of inside jokes and memes specific to the community. If someone replies to a post with something that seems like a total non-sequitur, but others seem to find it funny, you may want to Google for inside jokes or check Know Your Meme for answers. Be forewarned: while some are funny or insightful, many memes and Reddit inside jokes are crass, prejudiced, or just stupid.
  • Reddiquette—Reddit’s own set of community manners. Read it here before posting!
  • Sub / Subreddit—Although originally not officially recognized, “sub” or “subreddit” are now almost universally used terms refers to self-moderated community centered around a particular topic. Here are just a few examples of the tens of thousands of subs you can choose to subscribe to, depending on your interests.

 

Have questions about Reddiquette or other social media platforms? Please don’t hesitate to reach out at ariordan@ambulance.org. Please feel free to share your own tips in the comments section below. We would love to hear about your ambulance service’s online successes and foibles.

Cataldo Ambulance’s Ron Quaranto on Mobile Integrated Health

As a current mobile integrated health provider, we recognize the values of an MIH program which most importantly provides quality patient care to those in need, often in the comfort of their own homes. This is often done under the direction of the patient’s primary care physician in conjunction with the patient’s healthcare team. This allows for the patient to maintain their quality of life while receiving the medical attention they need—and ultimately reducing the healthcare expenses of hospitalization.

Ron Quaranto
COO, Cataldo Ambulance Service

Save big on ZOLL with Savvik!

Use the Savvik Buying Group discount included with your AAA membership to save on the ZOLL products you are already buying. Simply ask your ZOLL sales representative to apply the Savvik contract rates to your next purchase. That’s it!

AAA’s ZOLL discount program through Savvik Buying Group can save you BIG!

Automated External Defibrillators, Related Equipment, Accessories & Product Upgrades

  • 32% discount on AED Plus defibrillators
  • 32% discount on AED Pro defibrillators
  • 25% discount on all accessories and disposables
  • 25% discount on product upgrades
  • Multiple Unit Sales: Additional discounts available for 2 or more units in a single purchase order

ZOLL_logoALS Monitors / Defibrillators and Automated CPR Devices Related Equipment, Accessories & Product Upgrades

  • 2% discount on AutoPulse
  • 18% discount on X Series defibrillators and related accessories
  • 18% discount on Propaq MD defibrillators and related accessories
  • 25% discount on M Series & E Series related accessories and disposables
  • Multiple Unit Sales: Additional discounts available for 2 or more units in a single purchase order

Ask your ZOLL rep to use the AAA’s Savvik Buying Group contract to receive these savings. It’s that easy!

Questions? Contact office@savvik.org to learn more, or for full pricing information.

Savvik Discount on Physio-Control

The American Ambulance Association is pleased to announce that AAA members can now save significantly on Physio-Control products through the Savvik Buying Group.

Through Savvik’s partnership with Vizient (formally Novation), the largest acute care GPO in the United States, AAA members now have access to this discounted contract on AED’s, Monitors, and Lucas devices and accessories.

Visit the Savvik site today or contact office@savvik.org for details!

Credit Card Processing: Interchange Plus vs. Tiered Pricing

 

When it comes down to the pricing structures offered by different credit card payment processors, how do you determine which is best for your ambulance service? The American Ambulance Association has teamed up with Payline Data to kick confusion to the curb.

Tiered Pricing Structure

Tiered pricing is a rate structure in which several hundred different processing rates are packaged into tiers that represent three different possible rates. Most providers package the rates into three groups with varying markups. Unfortunately, there is no regulation behind how merchant account providers must package their tiers, which prevents merchants from knowing exactly how much a given provider is making on each transaction. Despite the prevalence of tiered pricing in the credit card processing industry, a more competitive and transparent pricing model is available in the form of Interchange-plus pricing.

Interchange-Plus Pricing

Interchange-Plus pricing is the most transparent pricing model and it’s what Payline offers to all AAA members. This model for pricing puts the power in your hands by giving you a straightforward and clear explanation of charges. Interchange describes the rates that come directly from the card networks. No merchant or processing company has any control over these rates. Every merchant pays interchange, which varies based on the type of card your customer is using. The plus is what Payline is charging you for our ​service. It is our​ profit and is shown in terms of a small percentage markup and a minimal transaction cost.

The best-fit pricing structure is one that is designed to help your business thrive. To hear more about our exclusive pricing option for AAA members, call our friendly Payline representative for a free, no-obligation quote today.

Payline DataContact

Steve Marshall
Director of Corporate Partnerships
smarshall@paylinedata.com
(800) 284-7401

Your membership is important to us–let us know what you think of your Payline experience!

Choosing a Credit Card Processor for Your Ambulance Service

In the fast-paced life of an American Ambulance Association member, taking the time to evaluate credit card processing needs for can feel like a daunting task.  The idea alone is enough to make some emergency vehicle businesses stick with the same old merchant processor when, unbeknownst to them, they are likely losing out on value added services and low rates that could help their business grow. Here are a few tips for choosing a credit card processor for your organization that will enhance your business operations:

  • Understand Credit Card Processing 101

    Credit card processing can seem like a complicated industry, and while it’s true that payments aren’t always black and white, a quality payment processor will help you understand the gray area. Credit card processing is essentially the backend work that occurs every time your business runs a credit or debit card transaction. The first part of the transaction is known as authorization (getting approval from the bank for the transaction) and the second part is settlement (processing of the actual sale, in which funds are transferred from the issuing bank to the merchant account). What it boils down to is this: payment processing is the expansion of your commerce reach as a business, and having one is necessary to optimize your business’s growth. (MORE: Read AAA’s EMS Card Payment Processing Guide)

  • Make sure your processor is advocating for you and your business

    It’s no secret that finding a best-fit business solution for your business takes time and careful consideration. It’s likely that there are many players are involved in helping you make business decisions, so it’s important to have a merchant advocate when selecting a payment processor. A quality payment processor for your business will provide you with an analysis of your recent processing statements and pinpoint where you might be able to cut costs. Money saved on processing can in turn be invested into growing your business and expanding your client reach.

  • Find a processor with cutting-edge solutions

    Any business that accesses debit and credit cards for payment is equally affected by the threat of fraud. A credit card processor that is truly beneficial to your business will seek out the right value added services that can assist you in the fight against fraud. With the new EMV chip cards that are being circulated, it’s important to consider the need for a terminal that can accept all types of cards. Other services offered by the best processors include ACH processing, USB readers, mobile readers, and cloud-based solutions. As commerce rapidly adapts to today’s merchant and consumer needs, your business needs a processor that will offer these solutions and more.

Sticking with a processor that isn’t providing you with the support your business needs isn’t worth your time. To learn more about credit card processing solutions that can help your business grow, contact Steve Marshall at Payline.

Contact us today via email or by phone (800) 284-7401 and we would be glad to run a statement analysis to show you how you can save money and cut costs on processing fees for the betterment and growth of your business.

FDA Issues First Responder Drug Dispenser Guidance

In accordance with the Drug Supply Chain Security Act of 2013, the FDA issued regulations last year to require drug dispensaries to build an electronic system to identify and track the distribution of drugs. Many small dispensaries do not have the ability currently to electronically trace small quantities of drugs. The AAA became concerned that hospital and other small dispensers would no longer provide first responders with critical drugs in fear of not being compliant with the new regulations. The AAA joined a coalition of dispensaries, pharmacists and others that also had concerns with the new regulations.

As a result of the efforts of the coalition and the AAA, we were able to delay enforcement of the requirements until today, March 1. The AAA then worked directly with the FDA to educate them about the unique nature that small dispensaries sometimes play in restocking certain ambulance service providers. Upon learning of these transactions, the FDA shared our concerns and worked quickly to release the guidance.

The guidance states that the FDA will not take action against drug dispensaries in providing drugs to first responders if the dispensary follows certain basic recording keeping policies. The agency will also not take any action against the first responder. The guidance is entitled “Requirements for Transactions with First Responders under Section 582 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act — Compliance Policy Guidance for Industry“.

Learn & Save: Your Guide to Credit Card Processing Agreements

AAA understands that ambulance services sometimes operate on razor-thin margins. One relatively painless way to reduce operating expenses is to ensure that you are getting the best possible deal on credit card processing. While card processing may seem like a commodity service, it’s not—taking a few moments to become educated on the basic elements of your processor contract may save your service thousands annually.

AAA Guide Tailored to Ambulance Services

AAA worked with industry expert and CardPaymentOptions.com CEO Phillip Parker to develop a card processing guide for ambulance services. We invite you to read it now in the AAA Member Center. Go Now►

New for 2015! Payline Data Partnership

AAA has teamed up with Payline Data, LLC to bring members ultra-low rates and overnight funding on card transactions. Learn more.

[Not yet a member? Learn more about AAA membership.]

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