Dealers Discuss: Bob Wagner, President and Owner, Wagner Medical Supply

Editor's Note: Bob Wagner has worked as an HME provider since 2001. In 2005, he also started working with On-Board Communications/HMEGPS, a company that produces FleetTraks GPS products for the HME industry. Wagner discusses the benefits of GPS for home care below.

As an HME provider, how have you seen GPS change your business?
Our HME is very small, but the system can benefit a fleet of one or 100 vehicles. Our delivery technician is a very good guy and has been with us from day one. We still, however, faced challenges with productivity. After we installed the GPS system, he returned from the delivery runs faster and we can now account for his time. The fact that he returns to the store faster gave us a bump in productivity and revenue. Just last week there was a question about time. The documentation available in the system allowed us to resolve the question to our tech's favor without confrontation.

A fair amount of our work is billable by the hour. We use the GPS data as the basis to bill our customers. This way, we are assured that we are not over- or undercharging for our time.

We also recently had a situation where GPS helped cement a relationship with a referral source. This particular customer manages a large assisted living facility. I was meeting with our customer when he got word that a patient had just come in that needed a piece of equipment right away. I knew that our tech was close, but shortly thereafter was committed to leave the area for the balance of the day. I simply logged on to our customer's computer, and checked the position and status of our tech. Having this information allowed me to commit to deliver the equipment within the time constraints without having to wonder where my tech was. The referral source was simply blown away.

Discuss the concept of GPS systems, specifically the one offered by HMEGPS.
The company provides a tiny tracking unit for the vehicle that receives GPS satellite signals and then processes onboard event-driven information. Using cellular technology, the unit transmits information as it occurs to any Web-based computer. This creates real-time tracking and a wide variety of management reports and maps.

What are the cost benefits of GPS?
Providers have told us that almost immediately there is a change in driver accountability resulting in bottom line improvements. Some of these improvements are a reduction in total miles traveled (by as much as 10 percent), a reduction in payroll expenses and an increase in productivity. As soon as the drivers are aware that the technology is installed, they become accountable for driver time and the delivery day "tightens up." Some companies report that they have saved as many as five overtime hours per driver per week.

How does GPS enable providers to reduce their miles?
The high price of gas and maintenance has pushed the operating costs of a typical van to 50 cents per mile. This does not include wages. With the ability to view a fleet of vans in a market in real time, customer service representatives can pick the van that's closest to the customer in need, rather than selecting a driver who could be on the other side of town just because he was the first driver who answered his phone. Second, the system allows the provider to perform a real-time audit trail of the route that the driver is taking to see if it is the most efficient route. Finally, personal use of the vehicles is eliminated.

Why is GPS an important tool for the HME industry?
The pressures of competitive bidding along with rising gas prices are causing providers to think outside of the box and look at solutions such as GPS.

How has GPS impacted the patient/client relationship?

The patient is being serviced faster and better. By knowing where the vehicles are, customer service representatives can commit to referral sources and respond in less time. This bolsters the relationship between the HME, the referral source and the patient. There is a real opportunity for the HME marketer to strengthen his/her position with referral sources. While in the referral source's office, marketers can log into their company's account and show the referral source where their vans are. The marketer can then convey the message that when their customer service representatives commit to time sensitive business that they really can service the patient on time.

This article originally appeared in the Respiratory Management Jan/Feb 2008 issue of HME Business.

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