Case study: No van? No problem, oxygen provider says

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

MODESTO, Calif. - It's possible to run a thriving respiratory business without a fleet of vans, a California oxygen provider contends.

Andrea Ewert, owner of Home Oxygen Co., uses portable oxygen concentrators (POCs) as her main product line and, as a result, has no need for vans, drivers or deliveries. In rare instances, when a delivery or home visit needs to be made, she uses a local distributor or her personal vehicle.

"With all due respect to the vital role delivery drivers play in our industry, we don't see a need for them here," Ewert said. "I'd rather hire support personnel on the inside to back the sales effort. The referral, patient, caregiver, discharge nurse and doctor see the consistency. We know at all times what is happening with our referrals and patients, and communicate that to each other."

While Ewert admits she hasn't done any official calculations of how much the company has saved from not having a fleet of vans, she estimates that a van would cost $30,000; a driver's salary would be in the $35,000 range; fuel would cost probably about $2,000 per vehicle per year; not to mention insurance costs in the thousands.

"Then there's paying for sick days, making late deliveries, tracking lot numbers, generating invoices, managing personnel, paying for uniforms, training, and worrying about accidents and fleet maintenance," she said.

After a decade of working in health care, Ewert started her own business three years ago. In that time, the company has grown to employ six people and serve 200 patients. She credits that growth to using POCs, which she has purchased using Invacare's financing program.

"It is responsible for our success," she said.