In February 1998, Lauren Rubinson launched an ambulance service with a card table, a telephone and two ambulances parked outside a Chicago storefront. “We called it MedEx,” said Rubinson. “And we didn't even have our own garage.”
After 13 years working for other private ambulance providers, Rubinson believed there was a better way to provide customer service to patients, hospitals, nursing homes, and families, as well as a better culture for employees.
She knew the industry inside and out having held management positions in accounting, billing, sales and marketing at Reliable Ambulance, Tower Ambulance and AMR Ambulance.
“Believing you can do something better, and then giving your heart and soul to prove you’re right is what drives most entrepreneurs,” says Rubinson. “We worked 24/7 to make MedEx a success. The early days were pretty tough on me and our first group of employees, but we did it and I now call them “the good old days.”
MedEx now employs more than 375 full-time and part-time emergency medical technicians, paramedics and administrative staff and operates a fleet of more than 80 vehicles.
MedEx offers medical transportation services including all levels of ground ambulance service, a state-of-the-art critical care program and air ambulance services to hundreds of healthcare facilities throughout the Chicagoland area including Lurie Children’s Hospital, University of Chicago Medicine, University of Illinois Hospital, Kindred Hospitals of Chicago, Tenet Healthcare Chicago and Swedish Covenant Hospital.
Take care of employees first
Right from the start, Rubinson wanted MedEx to be different from its competitors. Rather than focusing on trucks and equipment, she emphasized culture, employees and relationships. “It’s a high stress business,” said Rubinson, “To be successful, you have to take care of your employees, and in turn they’ll take care of your customers. And with a shortage of EMS professionals around the country, it's crucial for our company to be recognized as a great place to work.”
Recognition from a trusted partner
In 2013, Rubinson was recognized by Chase Bank for being an entrepreneur that represented the spirit of American business. A longtime Chase client, Rubinson was featured in Chase’s “Mission Main Street” multi-media advertising campaign that featured success stories from a business owner’s perspective. Nominated by bankers for their unique and compelling stories, Rubinson was among nine Chase clients featured in the campaign out of more than four million middle market businesses across the country.
Appearing on television and radio commercials, as well as business and trade publications, was new to Rubinson. “I don’t want to tell you how many takes it took to create the TV spot,” said Rubinson. “Let’s just say the crew and Chase banker I worked with are very patient people.”
One of the greatest benefits of the Chase campaign was that it exposed the MedEx story directly to consumers and other businesses. A key element of that story is that MedEx leads the ambulance service industry in cutting-edge technology and innovation. It was the first ambulance service in Chicago – and one of the first in the nation – to use Zoll’s computer-aided dispatch software, which integrates on-board computers, GPS/navigation and Zoll E-Series cardiac monitors.
In 2015, MedEx became the nation’s first ambulance service to use Google Glass to visually connect paramedics in the field directly with doctors. With Google Glass, MedEx can transmit live audio and video from the ambulance directly to a physician.
“I believe in staying ahead of the curve when it comes to equipping our ambulances with the latest innovations,” said Rubinson.
At the 2018 Chicago Auto Show, MedEx displayed a “Concept Ambulance” that includes a Lockheed Martin Indago unmanned aircraft system (UAS) – better known as a drone. At the previous year’s Chicago Auto Show, MedEx exhibited a high-tech ambulance created in partnership with the University of Chicago Aeromedical Network, or UCAN, which transports critical patients via ground and air. MedEx worked closely with UCAN staff to integrate aviation technology into their ambulance.
Beyond technology, Lauren has driven innovation for the EMS industry as well as her company. MedEx is a leading EMS practitioner of MIH (mobile integrated healthcare)—mobile services providing health care outside of the hospital. The goal is to improve patient health while preventing hospital readmissions.
Believing in yourself and your vision
In a recent Chase Bank newsletter, Rubinson explained that creating MedEx wasn't something that she wanted to do. “Creating MedEx was something I needed to do,” she said. “And being a woman was never a disadvantage: If you can do a better job, it doesn't matter if you're a man or a woman.”
Rubinson likes to spread positive messages and believes in the power of positive thinking. “Even in those early days when we stared at the telephone praying for it to ring with a transport request, I told the team that our plan for MedEx will work.” That was twenty years ago, when MedEx conducted three transports a day. Nearly two decades later, MedEx averages more than 200 transports a day.
Rubinson has served as a Board Member on the Swedish Covenant Hospital Foundation Board since its inception in 2007. She has also served on the Hospital’s Women’s Health Initiative Campaign Steering Committee and, along with her husband Glenn, chaired a successful 2013 gala for the Hospital raising more than $800,000 for the Women’s Health Initiative.
Rubinson was the recipient of the Swedish Covenant Hospital’s “Spirit of Compassion” Award in 2015 in honor of the contributions she has made to the hospital and community. In 2016, Rubinson was recognized by EMS1 Magazine as one of fourteen of the most influential women in EMS throughout the world.
Rubinson is an active member of the American Ambulance Association (AAA) and the Illinois State Ambulance Association (ISAA) and serves on the AAA Nominating Committee.