Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Finding a new revenue stream without getting sick

Denver, Colorado, unlike many cities, still has a public hospital, Denver Health. The hospital has a $432 million annual budget, serves mostly low income and/or uninsured patients, and operates in the black...how does Denver do it?

They found a profit center.

The Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center brings in between $2 and $3 million annually. The center provides poison control services for five states and over 70 manufacturers of potentially dangerous products, such as Clorox. It fields over 220,000 calls a year, preventing doctor visits for about 70% of them. By contracting with other states and companies to provide the service, they make a profit for Denver. By performing the service well, they prevent costly emergency room visits, which benefits just about everyone.

The center has operated for nearly 50 years. Providing contractual services for other jurisdictions, as well as private clients, was not part of the original mission. The evolution of the center was the result of seeing a need, having the foresight to see a part to be played in meeting that need, and creating the internal structure and support necessary to be able to play the part. Without investments in training and state-of-the-art phone and computer systems, the center would not be able to capture the business of the many manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies they serve. Investments have reaped rewards.

In times of budget cuts and property tax levy limits, perhaps a little long-range brainstorming is in order for all local government agencies. What are you doing well now that might meet a need elsewhere or in the private sector? If you had the resources to invest, could you do it even better? Would it then have value to others? If so, could the investment costs be recouped? Could a profit be made?

The city of Denver earns over $2 million a year preventing tragic results for curious kids or confused seniors. Your city might have an untapped mother lode, too.

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