DirectCall cuts ribbon at new Omaha headquarters, plans to hire more than 100

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Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2013 12:00 am

When a rural hospital has a heart attack patient who needs more care than it can offer, officials there transfer the patient to a larger facility. What goes on behind the scenes of that transfer is where Omaha's DirectCall comes in.

DirectCall arranges the transfer and stays on the line to connect both parties and figure out what the patient needs — what kind of transport method, what kind of bed — and notifies the emergency room of the receiving hospital that the patient is coming, making sure information about the patient makes the transfer, too. The sending hospital is notified when the patient arrives.

Demand for DirectCall's services has grown so much in recent years that it recently moved its headquarters in Omaha to a larger space in anticipation of adding more than 100 jobs to its current 150 in the next three years.

The new headquarters at 330 N. 117th St. expands DirectCall's working space from 2,500 square feet to 11,000 square feet. Over the past five years, DirectCall has grown from serving 12 clients to almost 100, located anywhere from Washington to New York, requiring the company to triple its staff over the past 18 months.

The company expects to add 125 to 325 more jobs within the next three years, Executive Director Kerin Zuger said.

Just about the only state the center doesn't have clients in is Nebraska, Zuger said, which means all revenue coming into the center is new to the state.

Zuger said the rapidly growing company plans to add 12 full-time employees per month over the next year. The staff is expected to outgrow the currently leased space and take over the whole building by the second quarter of 2014.

“When I started with the company in 2006, we had 10 coordinators and represented three institutions,” Zuger said.

The company's growth started as physicians would recommend the service and hospitals, happy with smooth transfers, would come back for more, Zuger said.

“The easier it is for a doctor to get a patient into your hospital, the more he will call you back,” Zuger said.

She said another reason for the growth is the fact that transfer service is expensive for hospitals to implement in-house. With the health care overhaul, many are looking for a way to be more cost-effective and competitive, and outsourcing transfer service is one way to do that.

DirectCall is typically hired by the receiving hospital but has started representing hospitals sending patients as well as occupational health hotlines, psychiatric centers and physician's concierge hotlines.

Starting pay for a full-time coordinator is $15 per hour and requires customer service experience and a high school diploma, but anyone with medical certifications would make within the range of $16 to $17 per hour.

To help with recruiting, the business is partnering with Metropolitan Community College. Metro over the next year plans to create a curriculum focused on patient transfer coordination. Students who do well in the certification program will then be guaranteed an interview at DirectCall upon completion, Zuger said.

The company previously was located near the airport in a building shared with AirCom, which coordinates patient air flight transfers. DirectCall started as an offshoot of AirCom in 2002 with the realization that patient transfers and helicopter dispatching should be two different jobs.

Both companies are owned and operated by emergency medical services helicopter operator Air Methods Corp., which is headquartered in Englewood, Colo.

In 2012, DirectCall coordinated more than 80,000 patient transfers, the company's website said. In 2013, it anticipates doubling the number of patient transfer requests.

The company held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new headquarters Thursday, with Mayor Jean Stothert and Omaha Chamber of Commerce CEO David G. Brown in attendance.

Stothert said as a registered nurse who is married to a trauma surgeon, she is well aware of the value of what DirectCall does. “The medical community is an important sector of our economy and DirectCall's growth and expansion will provide new jobs in this industry,” Stothert said.

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