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04/13/2021

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Weathering the storm

In the wake of tragedy, Cardinal Health™ OptiFreight® Logistics reconnected one community hospital to the world

On a Sunday morning near the end of 2021, an EF-4 tornado ripped through the southern U.S. (The EF-4 means the tornado was the second most intense tornado on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, used to assign a rating to a tornado based on estimated wind speeds and related damage.)

With winds up to 200 miles per hour the tornado caused catastrophic damage: Thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed; cell phone towers and power lines were uprooted from the ground, causing widespread outages. When the headquarters of a major, multi-state health system in one of the hardest-hit areas in the South attempted to contact one of its small community hospitals in the tornado's path, their call was met with what they dreaded most: silence.

After the storm
In a single night, the entire community had been overwhelmed by the powerful storm. The local hospital was a beacon of hope for the town's residents. But with communications down, the hospital was cut off not only from its own health system, but also from critical care partners including local emergency medical technicians (EMTs) who needed to communicate about emergent care on the ground. As the community began to reemerge from the storm, this local hospital needed communications restored, and fast.

The health system needed more than a logistics provider. It needed a logistics advocate – and had that in OptiFreight® Logistics, a Cardinal Health business that brings relevant expertise, diverse perspectives and creative problem-solving. Later that Sunday morning, the health system's supply chain director put a call into Greg Dettorre, an OptiFreight® Logistics account manager.

Creating the solution
"Our hospital has no power; we’re in emergency mode,” the supply chain director told Dettorre. “The hospital has lost communication with everyone, even the local EMTs. We need to deliver four satellite phones to the hospital STAT. Can you help us?"

The mission: Pick up the phones from the health system's headquarters and drive them as quickly as possible to the community hospital.

The challenge: Locate the right courier on a Sunday morning to navigate the 150-mile journey littered with downed trees, destroyed homes and ruined power lines. The roads on parts of the journey would be difficult, if not impassable. But the hospital and its clinicians and patients in this devastated community were counting on success.

“As challenging as it would be, we were glad to get the call," Dettorre said. "We have a very close relationship with this health system. They know us as logistics experts committed to their operations. And they know our value extends far beyond the transactional. So, when the supply chain director was faced with this tragedy, she knew she could count on us."

Engaging the Same Day Solutions team
Immediately after the call, Dettorre contacted colleagues from the OptiFreight® Logistics Same Day Solutions team, because he knew they could get the job done. .(Same Day Solutions streamlines same-day transportation for health systems, monitoring and coordinating the flow of deliveries to boost efficiency and cut costs.) Dettorre called Chris Mathew, director of transportation, and Don Curtin, manager, to put the team in motion.

Mathew and Curtin first had to identify the best courier provider for the job. “We have strong courier relationships across the country," Mathew said. "So we were in a good place when we began to determine which would be the best fit."

Curtin added, “The courier we selected is one of our longest-established, go-to resources with nationwide coverage. They had a driver available that Sunday who knew the route well, which would help him to overcome the obstacles created by the storm. Even more importantly, this driver is a professional we knew we could count on to make the trip quickly and safely."

Less than an hour after the supply chain director's call, OptiFreight® Logistics had created a tailored solution to meet the customer's urgent need.

Delivering hope
Shortly after the courier provider was engaged, the driver arrived at the health system's headquarters to pick up the satellite phones. The driver confirmed the destination's address and the correct contact. Then, the driver began what would normally be about a 2-1/2-hour drive. This time the drive took nearly twice as long, as the driver safely navigated around every obstacle. He delivered the satellite phones to the community hospital's doors early that same evening.

"Thanks to our close relationship with the courier, we could track every mile of the journey and keep the customer informed of the estimated arrival time," Dettorre said. "Communication is always vital with health care logistics, especially amid a tragedy. Given what was at stake, communication was never more important than it was on this difficult journey."

With satellite phones in hand, the community hospital was once again in touch with its headquarters and with the local partners who were critical in providing emergency relief. While it would take months for the community to rebuild, restoring communications for the local hospital was an important first step. “We are a partner to our customers,” Dettorre said. “And we’re passionate about providing the services they need to succeed – whether during the normal course of business or in an emergency.”

Editor’s note: You can learn more about OptiFreight® Logistics at cardinalhealth.com/optifreight.