Skilled Nursing Transportation Provider Sees Opportunity in Higher-End Care

As skilled nursing operators go big on design features and restaurant-style dining, one Midwestern medical transport startup has also placed its bets on upscale services.

Operators and regulators alike often overlook non-emergency transport, according to Brian Fleming, director of sales and marketing at Kansas City, Mo.-based Secure Medical Transport.

“There’s really no regulation over this industry,” he says. “There’s nobody checking van conditions or doing background checks.”

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Despite that lack of oversight, the service is crucially important to the skilled nursing industry. Secure Medical Transport’s drivers routinely take clients to and from nursing homes, hospitals, and medical offices. They also whisk people to important events or social outings—sometimes on stretchers or over long distances.

Opportunity in upscale

As new payment models continue to churn the industry, some operators are offering hotel-like amenities and other upscale services to get ahead of the game and attract short-stay rehabilitation patients.

Though it’s not the first thing most operators think of, those upscale services could include transportation. Secure Medical Transport touts its newer vehicles as one thing that makes it a “premium” service for its customers.

“A lot of our competitors are buying vehicles with 300,000 miles on them,” Fleming says. “New vehicles give you a better ride from a suspension standpoint. And if you have a vehicle that’s 10 to 12 years old and you have a huge cavern in the back, it’s going to be too hot or cold.”

The company is currently upgrading its fleet by buying new Toyota Sienna minivans configured for medical transport. Siennas, which start at around $30,000 for new consumer models, have room for a 36-inch wheelchair ramp—a crucial feature when transporting older adults.

“It allows us to take the largest bariatric patients in a wheelchair,” Fleming says. “We can take a five-, six-, or seven-hundred-pound person in a wheelchair as opposed to putting them in a stretcher.”

Secure Medical Transport also hires firefighters and other workers who are already familiar with high-stress or clinical situations.

“It makes everyone feel so much better when you have a firefighter running a stretcher crew or driving a van,” Fleming says.

Something else the provider looks for in its workers is empathy.

“You can’t really train that. You have to hire it,” Fleming says. “We look for people who already have those characteristics…it makes the job more rewarding for our drivers.”

To lure those employees, Secure Medical Transport pays higher wages than their competition. The company also pays extra for stretcher or weekend work and offers timed raises.

Set for growth

The Kansas City, Mo.-based Secure Medical Transport landed a deal to become Tutera Senior Living & Health Care’s transportation provider last month. As part of the deal, Secure Medical Transport will exclusively take Tutera’s clients to and from its communities and SNFs in the Kansas City area.

“They are receptive to our needs and are very good at accommodating last-minute schedule changes when we have them,” Tutera’s regional director of operations, Kelly Hines, tells Skilled Nursing News. “The greatest deciding factor was the exceptional customer service they provide to our residents and patients as well as our staff in coordinating transportation needs.”

In the past two years, Secure Medical Transport has doubled its revenue. Currently, the goal is to again double the company’s revenue in the next two years, then expand to markets like Des Moines, Iowa, St. Louis and Columbia, Mo., over the next five.

“They almost can’t build [SNFs] fast enough to service the coming wave of baby boomers,” Fleming says. “We’re going to be there to help support those communities.”

Written by Tim Regan

(Photo courtesy of Secure Medical Transport)

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