January 9, 2013
In the aftermath of the hurricane which devastated the East Coast in October, 2012, the daunting task of post-Sandy rebuilding continues. The forced evacuation of residents and closing of businesses in designated flood zones helped to minimize the loss of life, but property damage and losses were severe.
Buildings in the financial district in lower Manhattan were hit hard by the storm with dozens of buildings losing power and services. Among the buildings suffering extensive damages was the building which houses the approximately 100 staff members of MedReview at 199 Water Street. The building was inundated with water, and is not expected to have power and telephone service fully restored until the week of January 7.
Despite the colossal disruption and displacement, the company, which provides healthcare utilization management services including providing clients with medical reviews to identify possible overcharges by health care providers, was able to resume operations only three days after the storm’s fury thanks to herculean efforts of staff members and the assistance of friends.
Joseph Stamm, MedReview’s CEO, currently works out of offices on 40 Worth Street which were obtained on a short-term lease to enable the organization to restore all functionality. A second location was leased on West 30th Street to house the company’s pre-certification department and additional space for the company was also obtained in the World Financial Center free of charge through a gracious offer by Gary Kamenetsky, senior VP with CB Richard Ellis, a Fortune 500 holding company. Mr. Stamm is extremely grateful to those who have offered office space to help the company stay open as it waits for repairs at 199 Water Street, but with MedReview’s workforce working in three different locations throughout the city, the conditions have impacted efficiency and put a strain on the company’s finances.
“There are only six land lines for 60 staff members to use here at the Worth Street location and none in the World Financial Center. Most of us are relying on our cell phones to conduct business,” Stamm said.
The first order of business to restart business operations was to reestablish a call center offsite because Verizon’s old copper network downtown was submerged under water. The company needed the call center to be up and running quickly so that clients could confirm precertification for their clients’ medical procedures.
Again, a contact proved critical. Stamm noted that Kenneth Raske, President and CEO of the Greater New York Hospital Association, did an enormous favor for the company. “We were desperate because our phone system was down. I called Mr. Raske and asked him if he could send an e-mail blast to all the hospitals in the association to inform them to call our regional office in Massachusetts for precertification. He was very accommodating,” Stamm said.
He also noted that the efforts exerted by the staff to prevent damage to MedReview’s IT computer hardware and documents at 199 Water was extraordinary. Led by Sergey Slitinskiy, MedReview’s IT administrator, the company hired professional movers to transport 16 network servers and multiple bins of unreviewed medical records by foot down 27 flights of stairs in the dark.
The professional movers delivered the servers to an office space managed by TechSpace, a leading IT leasing services company, which allowed MedReview to restart all network services 10 days after the storm.
Stamm mentioned that MedReview’s business has been interrupted before by extreme weather, but not on the scale comparable to Hurricane Sandy.
“I’d say most of our clients were sympathetic to our quandary with minimal complaints. We asked one of our biggest clients, AmeriChoice, to convert their claims from a pre-payment review to a post-pay system to ensure hospitals were compensated soon after rendering services, and they complied,” Stamm said.
Sandy’s aftermath will compel companies to reassess their disaster recovery protocols, and MedReview has already begun the process.
Stamm said, “The first thing we are going to do is evaluate and assess what went right and what went wrong and try to answer could things have been done better such as a complete replication of the call center elsewhere. This will be an opportunity for us to look introspectively of what we did well and what needs improvement.”
The company annually hosts an end-of-the-year holiday party, but the company initially paused at hosting a party this year. Ultimately, the company determined to proceed.
“This party was more important than any other party we’ve had. There were more political figures in attendance this year than any other year,” Stamm said.
Thirteen politicians attended, including New York City Comptroller John Liu, Former New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, New York State senator Marty Golden, Assemblymen Denny Farrel and Dov Hikind, and New York City Council Members Letitia James and Dan Halloran, among others.
Stamm added, “I was very grateful for the turnout by the city’s political class because I wanted the staff to hear words of encouragement.”