Map Business Online Blog

Read about business mapping and how it can help your business succeed.

Prepare for Rising Gas Prices – Optimized Clinician Routing for Home Care

Home Care Agencies have a lot on their collective minds. The business of caring for America’s elderly and disabled, providing hospice care or rehabilitation services, is booming.  Growth is good, but it’s not always easy.  Home Care Agencies need to apply every technical advantage available to improve productivity and drive down costs.  The nature of caring for people in their homes entails regular visits from mobile clinicians and this means geography plays an important role in home care.

Be an Optimizer

One way to lower costs is by improving controls over the mobile employee’s driving tendencies. A more efficient route, taken every day over a year will lower fuel costs by 15 to 30%.  That rate of reduction comes from the transportation industry which has applied optimized routing tools for the last ten years. 

Most of the time, a computer-calculated, optimized route with 5 to 10 stops is going to be more efficient than a human being’s best guess.  The optimized route lowers the total miles driven and decreases the time required to complete the day’s stops.  A truly optimized, computer-generated route considers road networks, speed limits, turn restrictions, and other routing factors.  

With USA home care clinicians averaging 25,000 miles per year, fuel reimbursements constitute a major expense item on annual financials.  Everyone understands that pain. Think about that reimbursement number on the year-end financials. Imagine being able to show a $250,000 savings a year from now. The fuel cost calculation for a 500 mobile clinician operation over a period of one year might look like this:

Total miles driven 3 Million x $0.55 compensation per mile = $1,650,000 Annual Expense

15% Reduction = $247,500 in Savings

Big Brother vs. Lower Costs

One argument against implementing routing and GPS tracking technology is that it introduces a “Big Brother is watching us” feeling with employees.  My counter to that argument is that given the right information, employees will want to do the right thing. It just needs to be presented as an opportunity to help not as a directive to comply.   Would a traveling employee working in the 1950’s have insisted on continuing to use back roads after the state and federal highway system had been upgraded, just so they could collect better reimbursements? 

As a sales professional, each month I submit my sales travel miles for reimbursement.   I do this to cover the costs of doing business. If I take a detour of 50 miles to attend to a personal issue, I don’t expect to be compensated for the detour miles. My travel report reflects my business miles.  I want my business to thrive and am therefore interested in finding the most efficient way to drive to my business destinations.  

Engage your people and they will contribute. Ask for ideas and feedback on transportation policies. Make sure the clearly understand cost reductions’ impact.

Significantly lower fuel costs will occur naturally by implementing and requiring the use of an optimized routing system.  But just the idea that fuel costs are an issue and that management will be tracking them, will drive down those costs. That’s human nature at work in favor of your business. An additional way to drive those fuel costs down is to issue reimbursements based on routes generated by the system, not by routes actually taken, unless extenuating circumstances apply.  Use the route analysis as an opportunity to discuss daily travel.  Leverage geography – it almost always reveals interesting things about the nature of your business.

Perhaps the greatest benefit to an optimized routing system is that more time is available in each clinician’s day – less time driving and more time caring. So increase the number of patients visited or increase the amount of time available for each patient or just let the clinician go home early.

Conclusion

The pressure to improve productivity and lower costs is intense today. Energy prices will be a critical driver of costs for the foreseeable future.  Help your employees understand the strategic need to reduce costs. Show them how fuel reimbursement reductions impact the bottom line, then set an objective for fuel savings and start an implementation plan. There are multiple vendors ready to help you.

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Starbucks Photo Shoot

Last month Barbi and I visited New York City. We love to go down once in a while and walk the city and just see what happens. The transition from rural Maine to Manhattan is always amazing. This time Barbi brought her brand new, DSL camera. As we walked the city she began collecting a montage of shots of women wearing their New York City “uniform” – all black fashion-wear usually including a short black jacket, tight dark pants and boots. Barbi is obsessed with the uniform concept. Toward the end of the day we headed back to her sister’s apartment on the upper west side to prepare for our very first opera that evening – Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. Barb wanted coffee, so we stopped at Starbucks. She ordered a mocha latte and handed me the camera saying, “Take this. I need to use the bathroom.”

Placing the bulky Pentax DSL around my neck, I stood dutifully in line while the busy male barrister processed his orders at the busy Starbucks. But then I noticed the woman in front of me. She had on the uniform. Black clothes, the boots – the whole NYC deal. Hmm. Do I dare? I gently arrange myself for a quick, covert photo shot with the new camera. Like an undercover cop, I pull the DSL into position and double check my aim. Unfortunately the DSL camera is a mystery to me. I’m more of a PowerShot kind of guy. Or perhaps I should stick to pics from my iPhone. But I notice there’s a big green button that I’m pretty sure triggers the shutter and the lens cap is definitely off. I think I’m good. I gently press the big green button.

It was like a freakin’ fire alarm went off. The camera suddenly and noisily throws up this flash thingy and sets off an explosion like a super nova in the dark Starbucks. All these loud mechanical noises informed people on the bus out on 86th Street that a photo had just been taken within Starbucks, by an idiot. The barista guy behind the counter begins yelling at me. He screamingly informs me with a deep accent that photos are not allowed in Starbucks. He’s quiet for a minute. Then he demands that I delete his photo. I apologize and assure him I will delete the picture. I can see the photo on the display, but have absolutely no idea how to delete it. He can tell by the way I am fumbling with the camera that I am not deleting anything; that he’s either dealing with some NYC wise guy or a god damn fool. I’m leaning towards the latter. My brain is screaming, “Where’s Barbi? Where’s Barbi? Delete! DELETE!”

Barista man, while gracefully whip-steaminging up some milk, is still loudly complaining about not using cameras in Starbucks. Finally, he yells out, “Grande Cappuccino,” and then calls his manager over.
Meanwhile the female photo subject in line doesn’t know what to think. She assumed I was taking a picture of the crazy barrister and I let her continue thinking that. Why risk the harassment charge? She grabs her cappuccino and heads for the street glad to be free of the international incident brewing behind her.

And I’m wondering what’s happening in that bathroom and generally panicking. It’s what I do.

The manager is on her way over, probably to tell me they have my wife trapped in the women’s stall and that I’ll be arrested shortly… and just then, Barbi finally shows up. She takes in the disaster I’ve created with a quick sweep of the area; she reaches over and with one poke deletes the picture.

The manager, closer now, lets us know that Starbucks does not allow pictures to be taken in the stores. Who knew? We explain we’re sorry and that the pic is gone. She also explained that people of certain cultures do not like having their picture taken. We apologize again and reassure her that the picture is gone. Just then my favorite barrister screams “Grande Mocha Latte.” What? We get our coffee after all that? We grab our latte and scram.

They say Madame Butterfly is a tragedy and I look forward to spending the evening watching somebody else suffer through cultural differences. And don’t worry, no pictures at the Opera.

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Maps, GIS, Geospatial, LBS….

I sell geospatial software tools. I work for a company called SpatialTEQ and SpatialTEQ is located in Russia.   This Blog will be a place where we can post interesting notes about our technology, our customers, our customer’s applications, and maybe some opinions and stories related the world of geography.

Geography seems to be of interest to most people.  Most of us enjoy looking at a map. Its interesting. It tells us something about where we live, or where we’re going, or where we’ve been.  In business, arranging your business information geographically will tell you something about your business.  Some of the most interesting examples of this in my experience are:

  • New England police discovering the source of a series of windshield smashings was, in fact, the windshield repair store located at the center point of all of the smashing incidents placed on the map.
  • A map view of USA joblesslessness over time from 2007 through 2009 – watching the red blotches grow and grow and take over the map and then slowly begin to subside.
  • Map display comparing recent home sales values with average income by neighborhood for a large US city.  This analysis exposed the practice of mortgage flipping.
  • GPS tracks of 6 friends and their afternoon of skying at Maine’s Sunday River Ski Resort.  It reminded me of the Family Circus cartoon where the author would trace the little kids’ day in the back yard.

Maps are powerful tools. And they are fun to work with too. What if we all maintained a map that displayed every place we’d been to across our whole life?  Fun for some, for others not so much…

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