360 Quality Care + Transport Services is, as its name suggests, more than just a transport company.
“We provide the ultimate in first-class specialty transportation services for those living with mobility challenges”, says Steve Newman, the company’s co-owner. Steve and his wife Debbie started 360 just over four years ago after researching the availability and service standards of senior care transport services in the St. Louis area. “We received feedback from home care agencies, hospital case managers, social workers, senior living admissions managers, and a host of local individuals and families”, Steve said “And all of them told us horror stories. At the time, my wife had been providing care and companionship services to seniors for almost twenty years and every one of her clients absolutely loved her. She had built a thriving business based entirely on referrals, and all because her of her amazing ability to care about, and for, others. Honestly, anyone who knows Debbie will tell you she is the most caring and giving person they’ve ever met”. Steve added, “So we decided to take the plunge into starting our own business with the goal of raising the bar on transport options for the mobility challenged”. Today, the company has a fleet of fourteen ADA-compliant vehicles and has completed over 27,000 transports. “The greatest testament to the work we’ve done over the last four years is the amount of testimonial phone calls and emails we receive each week. We certainly haven’t completed our mission, but it’s a great feeling to know and hear so frequently that we have succeeded in raising the bar for so many”.
Passenger Service – the 360 “secret sauce”
360 Care + Transport’s service includes door-thru-door or bedside to bedside wheelchair, ambulatory or stretcher transportation. “Most transport companies only focus on curb to curb service and they fit multiple people into their vehicles at one time,” said Steve. “That requires them to pick-up and drop-off using a pre-assigned route structure that might take an hour or more for patients to get to their medical appointments, then another hour or two to get back home. And in the heat of the summer or the cold of the winter, they might be waiting outside for a long time before their ride would even arrive. It’s just not a good system, especially for those who are already vulnerable or not feeling well. So we designed our service to be one patient at a time. We’ll go into the home, or up to the hospital room with our own wheelchair. We’ll assist the patient and family in transferring the patient to the wheelchair, then we’ll gently move them out of their room or home and secure them carefully into the back of our van using a four-cornered restraint system that also includes a lap belt and shoulder harness. Our drivers are all hired for their caring and compassionate backgrounds and once the patient is comfortable in our van, we get the opportunity to get to know them a little bit.” Seventy-five percent of 360’s patients are repeat customers so they get to know both the patients and their families. “Our patients often become an extension of our own families,” says Steve, “We’ve been transporting many of them for several years on a very regular basis and it’s wonderful to have conversations with them about their children, where they used to live, the cars they drove, and the work they did”.
Smooth riding, ADA compliant vehicles that are ripe for conversation
While conversation is important, another key component of 360’s success is the vehicles they use. “All of our vehicles were purchased new and are now no more than four years old. They are all clean, well maintained, and sanitized after every transport. But it’s not just the appearance of our vans, it’s the practicality and suitability of them to provide the difference we want to make that makes them such a good fit for us. We utilize a fleet of Dodge Grand Caravan’s or Toyota Sienna’s, so all our vehicles are all mini-vans. With a rear-entry, fold-down ramp, we mitigate problems with cranky or jumpy hydraulic lifts especially in the winter when snow and salt can wreak havoc with the lifts that some of our competitors use. Any of the wheelchair-accessible conversion firms will tell you that the most common equipment breakdown is the hydraulic lift, so we immediately eliminated that problem with our vans”. Once inside the 360 vans, patients are secured in what before the conversion, would have been the middle row seat. “Our passengers get to sit close to us, just like our own families do when they travel with us. And being mini-vans, they ride comfortably and they are quiet, so our drivers can hear our passengers and they can hear us.” Steve goes on to say, “When we first looked into buying wheelchair accessible vehicles, we looked at the big delivery trucks but aside from the hydraulic lift, we also didn’t like the fact that the patient would ride all the way in the back and was about ten feet away from the driver. We always wanted to have conversations with our passengers and we knew that as far back as they were in those vehicles, they wouldn’t be able to hear us. So we went the minivan route instead, and we’ve never regretted it”.
Caring and Compassionate drivers – the heartbeat behind every 360 ride
360’s drivers undergo a rigorous hiring process. Most are former caregivers or former service professionals with experience in customer service and/or compassionate care. Steve says, “Since Covid, we’ve taken a close look at other struggling industries to see where we might be able to offer some help. For example, the hospitality industry and the foodservice industry have been decimated by Covid. Thousands of quality individuals, who have been trained at high customer service levels, have lost their jobs and can be excellent driver candidates. In addition, while many of our drivers have previously worked in-home care or at skilled nursing facilities, we also provide a great fit for retired or semi-retired professionals who are bored sitting at home, love and miss the daily interaction of the workplace, enjoy the role of being a communicator and making a difference in people’s lives, and can use the additional income. It’s the perfect part-time or full-time role for people who have a history of being reliable, caring, and compassionate”. Steve’s wife, Debbie, goes a step further, “Our drivers are the heartbeat and the face of our company and we empower them to always ‘do the right thing’ for every passenger we transport. As a result, they are proven difference makers who have the authority to make real-time decisions to make and keep our passengers and their families happy”.
The million-dollar difference – Employees, automation, and “Live” real-time dispatching
While quality service is paramount, so too is 360’s commitment to technology. Whereas many wheelchair transport services operate using just a “pen and a sheet of paper”, 360 drivers utilize a state-of-the-art driving app that, in addition to assigning their next transport, also scores their driving performance. Drivers earn bonuses for safe driving habits and overall driving performance, as well as for testimonials the company receives. In addition, the dispatching application shows 360’s dispatchers exactly where each vehicle is throughout the region in real-time. This allows them to dispatch “on the fly” and adjust schedules promptly to accommodate doctor’s appointments that might be running late, or hospital discharges that need immediate transport home or to rehab. Steve adds, “The fact that our drivers are employees is also very important. Unlike independent contractors who are paid by each transport leg, 360 drivers are paid by the hour. So when a driver is sitting in a lot waiting for a patient to finish their appointment, our drivers are still getting paid, and because they are being paid, we can re-assign them “on the fly” to another pick-up point quickly in order to keep our schedule on track. Contractors who are paid by the transport leg don’t want to give up a transport, so if one leg is delayed, then every ride thereafter also gets delayed, and further delays continue to add up throughout the day. It’s kind of like an airplane – when one plane is delayed early in the day, then everything after is impacted. With our system, we can adjust on the fly, in order to keep the rest of our schedule on-time.” As a result, almost 99% of 360 Care + Transport’s pick-up times operate within 15 minutes of their scheduled pick-up time – including return trips from doctor appointments.
360 Care + Transport has truly raised the bar by bringing to market a unique blend of healthcare and good old-fashioned Midwestern hospitality. For yours, or your family’s next wheelchair, ambulatory assisted, or stretcher transport, contact 360 Care + Transport at 636-735-3860 or visit their website at www.360careandtransport.com.
Guest Article contributed by: Steve Newman, Owner
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