The year was 1997. Princess Diana died in a car crash, Mother Teresa died in Calcutta, Microsoft became the world’s most valuable company at $261 billion dollars, and Managed Medical Transport (MMT) transported its first patient from Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga, TN to a residence about 9 miles away. The patient paid $55 for that ride, forfeiting the alternative $850 ambulance transport that was offered to him first by hospital social workers. We were two paramedics on a non-emergency van with our business lines forwarded to the bulky cell phone in my purse, the newest technology of the day. Our biggest expense was vehicle insurance, and full time day care for two children, both under 4 years old.
One day, we decided to buy booth space at a Healthcare Trade Show in Tennessee in hopes of educating nursing homes and hospitals in the area about the value of our service. At that show, the hospital administrator from St. Mary’s Hospital in Athens, GA, 180 miles away, came up to us and loved the business model. Her hospital’s ambulance service could more effectively concentrate on the emergency calls that they were contracted to provide if they had a service like ours to handle the non-emergency transports in town. More importantly, she recognized that we shared the same core values- medically trained staff, immaculate vehicles, and an emphasis on customer service all at a fraction of what the ambulance calls were costing. She saw a win/win situation and agreed to sign a preferred provider transport contract with us if we would consider moving. Meanwhile, American Medical Response (AMR), the ambulance service who I previously worked for, was feeling the squeeze of competition from MMT in their Chattanooga market. They were counting on the non-emergency transports to subsidize the shaky and unstable reimbursement record of their emergency ambulance operations. I had presented the idea for MMT to them before I left the company hoping they would see a great opportunity and a value added service to the community that they served. They told me it was a ridiculous concept since they could put the same patient in an ambulance and charge a lot more for the same transport. So I turned in my notice, and I started the company without them. When AMR saw that I had started MMT anyway, they compiled a massive legal team to attempt to cease my operation citing a violation of a non compete contract. Although they had no papers to present showing a non-compete was ever signed by me, they did have a legal team that stretched from Gulfport, MS to Denver, CO that they were unleashing on me. I could sit there and fight them with money I didn’t have, or I could agree to move out of their territory and they would leave me alone. I chose the latter. MMT reincorporated in the state of Georgia, and we signed our first contract with St. Mary’s Health System in Athens, Ga. That was almost 20 years ago. MMT still calls Athens, GA our corporate home, as we transport patients from Washington State to Southern Florida and everywhere in between. We still take patients out of Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga, TN, but only if they are going across the country, because we have evolved into a long distance patient transport service. We still serve the local community where we are based however, through contractual agreements with private and public entities. I am proud to say that we are still a preferred provider for St. Mary’s Health Care system.
Today, one of our biggest expenses is still insurance. It is just a given in the medical transport industry, despite having a stellar driving history. I no longer have to worry about those daycare expenses because those two little ones are now 22 and 25, with the addition of a little brother who will is now 17 years old.
MMT has economic ups and downs like every business. We have weathered recessions, a roller coaster ride with fuel costs, industry insurance hikes and consumer fears about spending during economic downturns. We watched as Y2K came and went without any of the anticipated issues, and we witnessed the tragedy at Columbine unfold on the TV in 1999. We transported patients on 9/11 as the crews listened in horror on their radios while our nation was attacked. We were making our daily post office runs during the Anthrax scares in 2001 and when the US invaded Afghanistan. We were in patient’s living rooms transferring them to their beds in 2003 when Sudaam Hussein was captured just like we were in 2005 when Katrina struck. We were scheduling calls on the computer as You Tube was becoming famous during the same year. In 2007, we watched with the world as a student at Virginia Tech went on a killing spree ending the lives of 30 students. In 2009 when Captain Sully landed his plane in the Hudson River, several of our crews heard it too while backing into somebody’s driveway. In 2010 we listened along with our patients that we were transporting as a magnitude 7 earthquake devastated Haiti and an underground mine explosion in West Virginia left 29 miners dead. In 2011, we had vans crossing the country listening to the devastation in Japan from a 9 magnitude underwater earthquake causing a tsunami that triggered a nuclear disaster second only to Chernobyl. And then in 2012, with crews scattered from California to Florida as Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast, along with the Aurora, Co movie shooting that killed 12 and injured 58. Not far from where the Boston Bombing was, in 2013, an MMT van was driving a patient along the interstate transporting them closer to their loved ones.
We see every day the fragility of life and the sacrifice that families make for each other. We transport the war veterans, the retired authors and scholars, and people from all professions, and all socioeconomic backgrounds. We learn their back-stories. Having come from the emergency ambulance industry, I can tell you that the beauty of MMT is that we have the time to get to know our patients. Instead of spending 15 minutes with them at some of the most tragic times of their lives only to drop them at an emergency room, we instead get to travel with them and get to know them. Our Testimonial page shows what our patients think of our people. But it can’t begin to illustrate what our people learn from the patients we transport. As we celebrate our 22nd birthday, it goes without saying that we are a product of every patient that we have transported, every employee who has ever worn our uniform, and a combination of basic, good old fashioned values with emphasis placed on our customer service, and the employees who are charged with delivering it.