AMBER, the Ambulance Cost Data Collection tool commissioned by the American Ambulance Association, built by Square Lines, LLC, has the potential to make your life significantly simpler when it comes to collecting, analyzing, and submitting your cost data to CMS. AMBER can be especially helpful if you engage your vendors and take advantage of the free API.
“The API allows vendors to send data, your data, from their system directly into AMBER, so you don’t have to go looking for it, or run multiple reports and then re-enter that data into AMBER,” explains Aaron Director, AMBER creator and consultant for the AAA.
The goal for AMBER was to create an intuitive, user-friendly program that can walk service-directors, billing managers, accountants, or whomever is responsible for cost data collection at your organization step-by-step through identifying, entering, and verifying necessary information before submission to CMS. AMBER assists users in several ways:
- Automatically limiting your fields based on your selections so you are asked only for information relevant to your service
- Incorporating contextual help; little blue question marks next to fields allow you to view definitions and context for each field so you can understand what you need to enter without switching views or opening new tabs
- Providing services an opportunity to validate data in a “safe space” before submitting it to CMS
- Providing an API for no additional cost, allowing vendors to send data directly from their system to AMBER, automatically populating those fields reducing the amount of time you need to spend gathering information
You might be wondering why, if you can get this information already, you would want another piece of software in the mix. While you can gather all of the information needed from the various systems used for billing, dispatch, PCR, etc., print the reports, and re-enter that information into AMBER, engaging your vendors to use the API will save you time and stress. Examples of the information that might come from vendors via the API include:
- Number of ground ambulance transports provided
- Number of ground ambulance non-transport responses
- Average trip time
- Percent of emergency response
- Response time targets
- And more
Once your AMBER fields are complete, services will have a chance to review the data entered, verify accuracy, and export the report in one of several file formats (.csv, .xls, .pdf, etc.). “This is high-stakes,” explains Rebecca Williamson, ACE Project Director and SME for the AAA, “the chance to review your data and make sure it makes sense before you submit to CMS is invaluable.”
After reviewing the information in AMBER and ensuring its accuracy, a service will then then enter the information into the CMS tool and submit it. “We realize there is a bit of redundancy with this process, as it stands now,” explained Director. “What we are working on, and hoping for, is an ability to have information flow directly from AMBER to the CMS tool through the click of a button, removing the need for services to enter the information twice,” Director continued.
Attendees of the AAA’s Annual Conference & Trade Show in Nashville, TN, had two opportunities to see AMBER: first during the cost data collection pre-conference workshop (user-focused) and second in the exhibition hall (vendor-focused); if you missed the demo or would like more information head to www.ambulancereports.org and submit a question to the experts (under the newsletter menu) or visit www.ambulancereports.org/subscribe/ to subscribe to our 2020 Cost Collection Education subscription, which includes an AMBER license.