VRI sees growth through Verizon Wireless partnership

A Franklin health services company plans to add more than 100 jobs this year, in part because of its partnership with Verizon Wireless on the mobile giant’s new medical alert device, officials said.

Valued Relationships Inc. (VRI) provides national monitoring services for the Verizon SureResponse Mobile Personal Emergency Response System. Released last fall, the mobile device is a one-touch panic button of sorts that operates on Verizon’s wireless network, unlike traditional medical alerts that are connected to home telephone landlines or WiFi networks.

Verizon SureResponse works both inside and outside the home, and uses GPS to provide location services to VRI’s care agents and emergency response units, said Jennifer Derkin, a Verizon Wireless data sales manager. As a result, the device is finding appeal beyond the senior population also to include families with children, people with disabilities, and hunters and outdoors enthusiasts, she said.

“We expect it to be pretty big,” said Chris Hendriksen, VRI’s president.

VRI is one of the nation’s largest providers of telemonitoring, medication adherence and medical alert systems. The company serves about 95,000 clients daily, Hendriksen said.

VRI added 110 jobs last year, including 60 in the two months before the Verizon SureResponse launch, Hendriksen said. The company also partnered with AT&T in May 2012 for a medical monitoring service.

“It wasn’t all Verizon and AT&T, but they had a pretty significant impact,” Hendriksen said. VRI plans to add another 100 to 110 jobs this year, he said.

The company has 250 employees, with about 125 working in its around-the-clock call center. Hendriksen declined to disclose VRI’s annual revenues.

VRI relocated to Franklin in 2010 with the promise of growing 300 jobs in five years. The city of Franklin last year increased its Economic Development Loan Agreement to $450,000for VRI to expand its facility at 1400 Commerce Center Drive. The original loan agreement was for $250,000 over a three-year term with the funds to be used for relocating the company from West Carrollton.

Home health monitoring is widely used to monitor chronic conditions such as diabetes, cardiac arrhythmia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and hypertension. More than 200 million people in the U.S. and the European Union suffer from one or more diseases for which home monitoring is a suitable option, according to research firm Berg Insight.

Berg Insight estimates the number of home monitoring systems with integrated cellular connectivity will grow at an annual rate of nearly 35 percent in the five-year period ending 2016 to reach almost 2.5 million worldwide.

Verizon SureResponse is that company’s first entry into health care-related monitoring. Hendriksen said he expects future growth for VRI from the device, which has applications beyond standard medical monitoring.

SureResponse users press a button on the device to connect with a VRI agent, who can dispatch first responders or connect the user with their doctor, caregiver, family members or friends. The user’s medical information, physician information and care-giver contacts are stored in an online portal.

The GPS capability allows the device to be tracked, which can be useful for finding a missing person such as a child or a senior with dementia, Derkin said. “If you haven’t heard from someone, you can actually track that location and then the care agent can page them and put a call in to the individual, as well,” she said.

Derkin said agents also can connect users with any business or service that is available in a telephone information listing, such as for ordering a pizza. This one-button “convenience calling” service can benefit people with limited use of their hands, arthritis or vision issues, officials said.

Verizon SureResponse’s unique features “adds to what we do on a daily basis,” Hendriksen said. Call center agents are cross-trained to support Verizon clients, as well as those for AT&T and VRI’s own monitoring services for health plans, hospitals and Medicaid systems.

Beyond the senior community, VRI has seen the greatest use of Verizon SureResponse by families with children who walk home from school by themselves or who are home alone after school, Hendriksen said.

A Pennsylvania school district has one device in each of seven schools for use in emergency situations, and professionals including home health nurses and real estate agents are using it for worker safety, he said.

“People are finding applications. It is basically a personal safety, personal concierge type of service,” Hendriksen said.

Verizon SureResponse retails for $19.99 with a two-year agreement, or $229.99 without an agreement. The device requires a $30 monthly service fee that includes unlimited access to a care agent in case of emergency and 60 monthly “convenience minutes” for calls outside the VRI agent or emergency services, Derkin said.

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