Tops in home health care
Formed in 1995 by the merger of the second- and third-largest home health care providers in America (Abbey Healthcare and Homedco Group), Apria is the largest company in the home health care industry. The company offers homebound patients and recently discharged hospital patients services including home respiratory therapy, home infusion therapy, and home medical equipment. It also provides extensive hospice services to the terminally ill. The company's size and the range of its services enable it to capitalize on the imminent health care needs of the aging Baby Boom generation. In addition, Apria's efficiency and national scope - it has 350 branch offices in 48 states - continue to attract growing numbers of managed health care organizations, which currently account for about 35 percent of Apria's revenues.
Despite the market strength of this 11,000-employee corporation, Apria has experienced some difficulties in recent days. Between 1996 and 1998, stock prices and other financial indicators dropped precipitously, mainly as a result of fee cuts. In 1998, Apria was hit with two lawsuits: one claiming that Homedco bribed physicians for patient referrals, and one from stockholders who alleged that former board members hid negative information from investors and then traded their stock before announcing the bad news. The federal government also probed Apria for suspicion of billing fraud, although the probe ended without any charges filed. To make matters worse, Apria saw its credit line greatly reduced to a sum more appropriate to its financial situation. Distraught over the state of Apria's health, shareholders questioned the industry experience of some of the company's newly-hired leaders.
A turnaround? Or just another cycle?
Abandoning its attempt to strengthen its position through a merger, Apria decided instead to focus its energy on an independent turnaround. It began by replacing many top executives and board members present during the company's decline. The company reduced its overall staff as well, and made other cost-cutting efforts. One important such move was to eliminate unprofitable business operations, most notably by selling off its intravenous therapy unit in California. Apria instead began to concentrate on areas with better revenue prospects, such as respiratory services. By 1999 the new leadership, once criticized for not being familiar with the home health care industry, began to see positive results. In March of that year, the company posted its first quarterly profit since the third quarter of 1997. However, in mid-2000, Apria stock reached a 52-week low.
Apria lists job openings at www.apria.com/careers. The company reviews resumes upon receipt and then keeps them on file for up to two years. Each of Apria's 350 branch offices conducts its own hiring separately. For some sections, like Information Services, Apria has "a lot of contractors that were hired through agencies."
As in most other interviews, the key to interviewing at Apria is to "present yourself with confidence, highlight key areas that are your strengths and if there are things you are unfamiliar with, indicate that you are willing to learn." Interviewees will be asked about their technical backgrounds. Questions include, "What have you been doing at your previous job?" and "Why did you feel necessary to leave?" At Apria there are usually "no pre-written tests, no grueling 'what if' scenarios." "Depending on the importance of the position, "candidates start interviewing at the supervisor level, and may have two or more up to the branch manager approval."
No bed of roses
Speculation about the company being bought and sold and reorganized again has not contributed to an overall feeling of stability, but employees find strength in the knowledge that Apria is "the largest HME in the country -- probably in the world for that matter." One former pharmacist relays that in his department "we had 12 pharmacist leave in four months," including himself. And with many managers resigning amid the chaos in which "the board of directors keep changing," insiders say - it's a little disheartening to see even upper management 'jump ship.'" But regardless of the change, "most managers are diligent in doing their part to steadily improve the organization." The ambivalent attitude that many employees seem to hold toward Apria is probably best surmised by one employee, who says, "Apria has been good to me, and I can't complain. But be aware it isn't a bed of roses."
Not quite in the clear
Though years later, the merger from which Apria was born still causes "quite a bit of frustration and turnover," and not just on the corporate level. "There seems to be a pretty high level of disorganization," due to "problems resulting from trying to blend two different information system platforms," as well as "differing ideologies and priorities among management." "The dust hasn't really settled yet," but at least as far as the computer system goes, it will be "undergoing a complete overhaul due out early 2000."
Bring on the benefits
While some say "if you are looking for decent wages, stay away from here," other feel the wages are "about average" and that in some areas Apria pays "veeeery well." There is one thing all seem to agree upon: "the benefits are a bit wanting." Those benefits include a tuition reimbursement plan in which "you can claim up to $1000 a fiscal year for education, provided you get managerial approval," and medical/dental coverage in which employees are "given $50 per paycheck to spend on HMO or PPO plans."
Females in abundance
As with many other health care corporations, the women outnumber the men considerably; at one location "office staff is probably 85 percent women, the sales staff -- about eight people -- are all women except for one guy." While many agree that "we have a good group of people working for us," because of its massive size insiders say "it's somewhat cliquey."
Medical equipment;Hospice care;Infusion therapy;Respiratory therapy
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