By Susan Nunziata
BioReference Laboratories needed a foolproof way to track the medical specimens it was processing from healthcare facilities across the U.S. But asset tracking wasn't the organization's only goal.
The Elmwood Park, NJ-based lab also needed a solution that would help it replace the outsourced courier services it is using in many markets with its own employees in order to improve customer service.
The 20-year-old enterprise services physician offices with concentrations in esoteric testing, molecular diagnostic, anatomical pathology, women's healthcare and correctional health care.
BioReference Labs has more than 2,000 employees, including a logistics division made up of 238 BioReference Labs couriers and 230 vehicles. It operates in 47 states plus Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and relies on outsourced couriers in 41 of those locations. "The service rep is the face of my company," says Ron Rayot, VP/Director of Logistics with BioReference Labs. "They see the client every single day. [When] our guys are showing up in uniform, they build a relationship with customers, there's a trust issue." Such relationships can't be built when outsourced couriers are used for pickups, notes Rayot.
The organization first deployed an asset tracking solution from AirClic for its New York-area service reps in 2007. With an initial $100,000 investment, reps in the region were equipped with a handheld computer and attached AirClic AC25 barcode scanner. The handhelds were equipped with AirClic's MP Tracker 2.0 software
The solution also uses GPS and time tracking, and UPS Logistics applications for its routing system and road net. Sprint is the company's primary wireless service provider for both cellular and direct-connect capabilities.
How It Works
Before beginning the day's route, the service rep uses the scanners at his or her local courier office, picks up a route sheet and account results, obtains daily dispatch instructions, scans in at the supply department and picks up client supplies for courier delivery. Before departure, the rep uses the scanner to capture the vehicle identification number, odometer reading and vehicle safety inspection information.
At the account location, the rep scans the specimen box, uses GPS to cross-reference and confirm the address, records the number of samples by category, and all scans are time- and-date stamped.
Back at the laboratory, specimens are scanned in at the processing department, the courier hands off the samples and receives confirmation.
At the end of each route, a post-route inspection is done which includes damage inspection, odometer readings and supervisor inspection of the interior of the vehicle.
"I create my own barcodes," notes Rayot. "In the labs I have barcode readers everywhere, every sample has to have its own barcodes. If I get a new account tomorrow, I don't have to wait for someone to produce a barcode for me. I have a team leader already barcoding the pickup location."
The solution generates a range of reports for BioReference Labs managers, including daily driver and administrative summaries, driver metric reports, driver processing drop-off reports, driver account pick-up detail, driver route status reports, route-end reports, and fleet summary reports.
Efficient 'War Room'
"In the last two and a half years that I had this system, I did not have to add any staff members," says Rayot. "They are so much more efficient. I have the 'war room,' I have screens in my courier office so all the dispatchers can see it. They don't have to make 10 phone calls to find someone in Manhattan, they know where they are in real time."
This also enables dispatchers to react to situations in real time, re-routing couriers as needed in the event of emergencies, weather situations and other unexpected occasions.
As a result of its initial AirClic deployment, BioReference Labs achieved ROI within seven months, notes Rayot, with a 61% decrease in missed specimen pickups as well as increased efficiency among employees.
Next steps for 2010 and beyond will be to expand the solution to locations nationwide, develop a way to coordinate with FedEx and commercial airline deliveries, and gradually phase out those outsourced courier services.
"My cost per stop runs $50 with an outside courier, versus $7-$12 with my own internal people," says Rayot. But it's not just about cost savings, it's about building customer relationships. "It will definitely change the whole face of our business," he says.