Increased interest 'a good sign'
With providers looking to reduce deliveries, one would think that the demand for delivery technician certifications would be declining. But that's not the case, at least not in Illinois.
The Illinois Association for Medical Equipment Services (IAMES) will host two delivery technician certification programs this year. About 40 drivers attended the first program on April 9; the second takes place Nov. 9.
"It's a good sign," said Executive Director Tom Renk. "Providers are recognizing the importance of drivers. They're often their only customer service point after order intake."
DTCP/RenTrain, a healthcare consulting firm, administers the program for IAMES and several other associations. The program comprises reviewing best practices and regulations, and taking a certification test.
While providers agree drivers play important roles, they're not all ready to spend $175 to $200 to certify them. Many providers train their drivers in-house: They use software from vendors like DMETrain and mentor them with experienced drivers. Especially with oxygen equipment, they emphasize regulations.
Michael Kuller, president of Allstar Oxygen Services in Concord, Calif., trains his drivers in-house, largely so he can incorporate company philosophy.
"We prefer our drivers to take a few extra minutes with patients rather than cram in another delivery," he said.
Providers like Michael Iott, general manager of Farrells Home Health in Bremerton, Wash., do both outside and in-house training.
"When a certification program comes into our region, we'll send drivers," Iott said. "Mostly, we train in-house. It's pretty extensive. It takes, on average, four weeks before our drivers are on their own."
Many providers believe certifying drivers is a catch-22: They need good drivers to meet regulations and maintain good customer service; but to get good drivers, they need to invest in training and certification, and pay them respectable salaries.
"Training is always important, but it's a matter of how much you want to spend," said Greg Lopresti, COO of Upstate Home Care in Kirkland, N.Y. "It's an entry-level position with a lot of turnover."