Dispatch system drives efficiency at

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

EL RENO, Okla. - A recent consolidation of CV Medical Solutions’ operations into a single 22,000-square-foot building here has also led the way for the company to implement an Internet-based dispatch system.

The move in July to the new building, which is divided into 10,000 square feet of office space and 12,000 for warehousing, was part of a long-range, strategic plan, said Jeff Wills, chief operating officer of the home health-care supplier and co-owner of the business with his wife, Tracey.

Before the move, the $11.5 million company operated from several sites, with a 22-mile gap between headquarters and the dispatch location.

Bringing the company together has had a threefold benefit, Wills said. Communication, process and workflow have improved because departments are now able to communicate in person; employees and customers have better access because of its proximity to the Interstate and the building is expandable, allowing CVMS to double its size if needed.

Another key improvement has been the addition of the new dispatch system. Gone are the days when drivers needed to stop into the office or make phone calls to receive delivery information.

The Nextel-based system, which operates with the One Link Manager software program, allows the dispatcher to enter customer, product, insurance and delivery information onto web-based forms and then send the information via secure, HIPAA-compliant Internet connections to screens on the Nextel phones.

The dispatcher is able to sort the information by name or date as well as view where in the process the delivery stands. Designations show ack-nowledgement by both the driver and dispatcher along with whether the delivery was completed.

Wills said this feature “helps us with customer service…we can track and the dispatcher can follow up with the driver to see what the status is.”

It also eliminates the possibility of incomplete or missed deliveries, Wills said.

CVMS has already customized the initial dispatch system, adding color-coding by activity, Wills said.

Currently, CVMS is limiting its use to the six service technicians who deliver HME and oxygen, but Wills said he foresees an expansion into pharmacy dispatch in the next three months.

The investment for the system, he said, was $7,000 to $10,000, plus the $15 per phone per month.

But the savings in personnel is well in excess of that investment. “This has saved me a least 1.5 to two full-time (dispatch and adminstrative) employees,” he said. The cost for those positions, he said, would be between $50,000 and $60,000.

Encouraged by the performance of the dispatch system, Wills said he is beta testing combining it with his current billing software as a way to alleviate double entry. He expects to have that installed by year-end.

Still, Wills isn’t looking to automate just for the sake of it. Although he looked at adding global positioning system technology to his fleet, he hasn’t done so. “It could create more work,” he said, “because of all the reports it can generate.”

He has also held off on instituting Internet-based ordering. A survey Wills conducted revealed “only 25% of case managers in our service area have Internet access.”

Brent Waltz, partner with Medical Express Delivery, a medical courier service in Indianapolis, echoed Wills’ concerns about Internet ordering, although his company does offer the service. “One of the biggest challenges has been convincing customers to change the way they have done things for years,” Waltz said. “Many (companies) have employees who aren’t Internet literate.”

Waltz, who also uses Nextel phones for dispatch, said technological advancements such as the ability of signals to reach a larger service area, has helped steer companies in this new direction.

A continuing focus on creating efficiencies and building systems is part of Wills’ set of goals. Also on that list, he said, are the possibility of licensing and franchising CVMS and improving staff development.

“I feel like our success is a journey, not a destination,” Wills said. “Our competitive advantage is constantly changing, and we have to be constantly adaptable to change.”
CV’s payer mix

Medicare - 20%
Medicaid - 13%
Private insurance - 63%
Other - 4%
The private insurance portion of the business is driven largely by preferred provider contracts.

Product mix

Home infusion - 40%
Respiratory and HME - 43%
Rehab - 16%
Nursing - 1%
The nursing segment, noted COO Jeff Wills, is focused on home infusion products.