North East Mobile Health Services grows fast, stays efficient
If you need a service, you want the best provider available.
And when it comes to mobile health tasks – whether it’s servinga community’s 911 medical response, providing specialty hospital-to-hospital emergency transportation and care or meeting the basic needs for ambulance, wheelchair van or other local medical care and transportation –the aim is the same.
Maine-based North East Mobile Health Services requires its para-medicine professionals to maintain a greater array of education certifications than virtually any other EMS provider in the state. Specialty training in the critical care of children, cardiac and injury basic and advanced intervention and adult medical life support are among these requirements.
Why does it matter? Because its staff takes these credentials – as well as state licenses as EMTs and paramedics – out on some 30,000 patient calls a year, more than any other service in Maine. Its wheelchair van staff alone transports 14,000 patients a year, and thousands of Maine residents ride hospital shuttle services provided by North East.
“The company was formed by Charles McCarthy (owner/chairman) and Dennis Brockway (president) to really have a one-call approach to medical transportation,” said Polly Miller, North East’s director of business development. “We started with operating ambulances and then we rolled in wheelchair service and, then, about a year-and-a-half ago, we rolled in para-transit.”
North East personnel have been selected to train para-medicine students from around the region, under guidance by itsfield training officers, because it provides such a healthy example of mobile health professionals in action. It operatesa training center to both meet the needs of in-house staff, and to serve as a regional resource for other emergency medical services.
And when it comes to innovation, the cutting edge is embraced and patient/service needs are consistently evaluated in search of a better way –which leads to thinking outside the box, on wheels.
North East embraces the conceptof community para-medicine, through which EMS providers are integrated into a community health care team to address gaps that are best filled by local professionals available on quick notice. Toward that end, North East vehicleswill go to homes simply to help with a health need that is best managed without transportation anywhere, and the company pursuesappropriate technology that allows better connection to hospital and clinic specialists.
“It’s what the market called for and what our clients were calling for,” Miller said. “It started with the basic clients of some hospitals for their discharges. That led to skilled nursing facility contracts, which, of course, then encompassed wheelchair transports. And then, the state of Maine changed the way they were handling non-emergency medical transportation. They went to a broker system.
“Once that broker system started to operate, we saw a need to help the brokers with the ambulatory or car service transport. So it really was a nice gradual increase based on needs of our clients and the area that we serve.”
Thanks, in fact, to the expansion in the car service and wheelchair functions, North East’s workforce recently crossed the 300-employee threshold and now sits at 306, according to CEO Butch Russell.
That number stood at just more than 200 as recently as a year ago, he said, and the company has posted upticks in both employees and revenue in each of the 15 years since it was founded.
“There are other ambulance services and other businesses that do the ambulatory work as well – the car rides and the wheelchair work,” Russell said. “But I would say that it’s our attitude toward the way that we take our business that’s helped us grow. It’s one of our founding beliefs and our vision is that every patient matters. When they’re in our car, our ambulance, our wheelchair van, they are No. 1.
“It’s that attitude that we instill in all of our employees, and that passes through. Our clients see that, our partners, our nursing homes, our hospitals, and that’s what’s helped us grow.”
North East’s operations are scattered throughout southern and mid-coast Maine and include a one-ambulance location in Sanford, a base in Biddeford with five ambulances and 13 cars/vans, a main hub in Scarborough with 16 ambulances and 45 cars/vans, five ambulances and a handful of municipal 911 contracts in Topsham and municipal contracts and nursing home/hospital functions in Rockport.
Each base, Russell said, helps service adjacent hospitals and nursing homes to bring the right amount of resources to the respective areas as they’re needed.
In 2014, North East did nearly 29,000 ambulance transports and is already tracking toward exceeding 30,000 in 2015 – including all the bases, 911 calls and inter-facility transfers.
Wheelchair transports numbered at roughly 350 per week last year, he said, but that figure has similarly climbed to more than 500 this year. Meanwhile, the car service that didn’t exist in early 2014 is on pace for 100,000 patients contacts in 2015.
“We’ve had some rapid growth,” Russell said.
“Right now, what the organization is really focusing on is actually taking a step back and trying to take a deep breath from that growth. We’re trying to streamline everything and make everything right. Everything that we do and we want to do, we want to do it right. Rapid growth sometimes will bring in some inefficiencies, and right now we’re focusing on making those things efficient.”
Continuing to develop ambulatory service and boost its efficiency is a primary objective going forward, as is upping the number of municipal agreements to provide 911 services as the state leans toward creating a network of regional EMS service providers.
“We don’t actively go after that business,” Russell said.
“But we find that a lot of small towns – ones that we don’t have contracts with – are looking at what to do for ambulance coverage. A lot of them had volunteer services. It seemed like every small town in Maine had its own little ambulance service. Some of those towns over the years have joined together and done small groups, but those small services are struggling financially. Less people want to volunteer and these services are struggling.
“I see those towns reaching out to us more and more as years go by. There’s opportunity there with that to do more 911 in the future and partnering with more municipalities.”
AT A GLANCE
WHO: North East Mobile Health Services
WHAT: High-volume provider of out-of-hospital medical and medical transportation services
WHERE: Corporate headquarters in Scarborough, Maine; bases located in bases located in Scarborough, Sanford, Biddeford, Topsham and Rockport