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September 18, 2017

Medical startup brings infusion services to rural Maine

Photo / Renee Cordes
Photo / Renee Cordes
Husband-and-wife team Dan and Ashley Rice, shown in downtown Portland, have started an infusion company called New England Vascular Access in Farmingdale.

Resource for veteran-owned businesses

Michael J. Zacchea, the program manager of the Entrepreneur Bootcamp for Disabled Veterans at the University of Connecticut School of Business, says that Maine has 24,000 veteran-owned businesses, nearly 15% of the state's total.

Nationwide, he says there are 2.5 million veteran-owned businesses producing $1.2 trillion in national GDP and employing 10 million people.

The bootcamp, launched in 2010, has graduated 177 veterans who have gone on to start 137 businesses that have produced more than 300 jobs and more than $380 million in gross revenues.

"Our return on capital is approximately 17-to-1," according to Zacchea, a retired U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant colonel.

A Farmingdale-based startup is bringing infusion services to rural locations and smaller health-care facilities to spare patients the hassle and extra cost of having to travel far from home.

The company, New England Vascular Access, dispatches clinicians and equipment to hook up patients to medicine and nutrition intravenous devices for care providers on an outsourced basis. It currently works with Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway, New England Rehabilitation Hospital of Portland, Hospice of Southern Maine and pharmacy company PharMerica Corp. for 12 long-term care facilities.

It also just wrapped up negotiations with Franklin Memorial Hospital with plans to start service there next month, said Dan Rice, who started the business with his wife, Ashley, in June.

"I think we did 28 service calls in the very first month, which was just shy of our three-month goal," Dan told Mainebiz during a recent interview in Portland. Ashley noted that it was also a short month, since they had started on the 10th.

He estimates they're now up to three or four times that amount.

Dan and Ashley are both veterans of the U.S. Air Force, where he was in the Security Forces and she was an air traffic controller, and met at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. Dan, a registered nurse, went through the Army's nurse anesthesia program and has eight years of experience in critical-care and operating-room settings, while Ashley is a chiropracter.

Spotting a need in Maine for mobile vascular services in rural locations, they researched the market and decided to start a business. The next step was figuring out how to do that.

'Turning warriors into entrepreneurs'

Through the U.S.Small Business Administration, they found out about the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities at the University of Connecticut School of Business .

After getting accepted, they did a month of online training and 10 days of on-campus classes, all free of charge. "They taught us everything you can think of," said Dan, from putting together a business plan to marketing.

"The great thing about it was is if you asked a question they didn't have the answer to, they found somebody who could," added Ashley.

Program manager Michael J. Zacchea, a retired U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant colonel, said via email that "the U.S. military turns civilians into warriors. We turn warriors into entrepreneurs."

Dan and Ashley got their business off the ground with a $30,000 loan from a fellow veteran, in return for a small stake in their company.

'Taking care of Maine'

NEVA has a team of six clinicians who work as independent contractors and hopes to bring on more as the business grows. Dan is CEO while Ashley handles communications, marketing and business support as chief administrative officer.

Orders are placed via phone or online and fulfilled on the same day.

"Delays in care is what drives up costs," said Dan, "and it's not helping the patient either if they have an infection and are not receiving treatment for three or four days." Eventually they may also do home service for patients depending on legislative developments related to reimbursement.

They've also gotten requests to bring the service to neighboring states, but Dan said that's not in the cards until next spring.

"Right now, we really want to take care of the state of Maine," he said.

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