Friday, February 27, 2009

Ohio Home Health Agency Issues Press Release about Muffins for Doctors

"No Donuts!" That's a sign that we put up on slides in our Certified Home care Sales Professional workshop as we teach home health and hospice sales professionals how to engage in meaningful dialog with physicians without buying lunch or bringing food.

I was stunned today when I reviewed my daily Google Alert for news on home health care and found the following post on an ohio newspaper web site:

"February 27, 2009 - MANSFIELD, OH -- Signature Health Services, a skilled home health care provider with local offices in Mansfield and Marion and a new office in Ashland, will deliver fresh muffins to Ashland-area physicians and facilities for 13 weeks.

The deliveries also will include information on Medicare Home Health Services and Signature and clues to a well-known sayings. The first person to reach Administrator Pat Long or Clinical Relations Specialist Beth Pennell in person with the correct saying will win Buckeye Bakery treats for their office or facility. Call 567-203-7770 with questions."

It's one thing to bring muffins to the doctor's office from time to time as a way of saying thanks to the office staff for helping you get access to the doctor. But to put an article in the paper with a contest for the first person to call is over the top.

What do you think? Is bringing muffins a good way to get referrals? What are the most effective techniques your agency uses to gain access to referral sources? How do you engage in a meaningful dialog with a physician to provide information on the benefits of using home health care or hospice for his or her patients?

For more details on how to sell to physicians and hospital discharge planners without buying lunch or bringing muffins, look at the Certified Home Care Sales Professional workshop information on our web site.

Obama Budget Proposal Cuts Money from Home Health Care

Health care stocks dragged down the stock market yesterday after the White House proposed cutting payments to private insurance plans. The Obama administration's $3.55 trillion budget plan for 2010 includes cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. Private insurance plans serving Medicare seniors would take the biggest hit, but hospitals, drug manufacturers and home health agencies also face cuts.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 88.81, or 1.22 percent, to 7,182.08.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 12.07, or 1.58 percent, to 752.83.

The Nasdaq composite index fell 33.96, or 2.38 percent, to 1,425.43.

What do you think will happen to home health agencies if this new budget proposal is passed into law by Congress? How can we communicate the importance of home health care in saving money by keeping patients out of hospitals?

Give us your comments below.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Do Female Executives Lack Vision?

Research conducted by professor Herminia Iberra at Insead, The Business School for the World,(r) has revealed some interesting insights for female executives in home health care.

Studies by professor Iberra show that in almost all measures of executive performance women are equal to or outperform men, with one exception: vision. Ibarra’s review of the 360 degree reviews of nearly 3,000 women revealed that, in general, they were seen as less visionary. What could explain this? Ibarra offers three possibilities:

1. Women may have a vision but they may be using a different process to develop their long-term strategy.

2.Women may have a vision but may be hesitant to make audacious statements.

3. Women may not value visionary pronouncements.

Whatever the reason for this perceived lack of vision, Ibarra suggests that those women wanting to climb the career ladder not simply wait around for visionary inspiration. She tells ambitious women,to get out and not think about how to set strategy in the safety of their own office, but how to start networking in a way that gives them a broader vision of the future. The way you envision the future is by being out there and trying to understand trends in the industry, in society and talking to people.

At Leading Home Care, we have been talking about Vision and Leadership in Home Care for the past 25 years. We even conducted a research program that revealed The Top Ten Competencies of Highly Effective Home Care Executives. The Number One competencies is, "Seeing the Bigger Picture."

Where does Vision come into play in the leadership of your home health agency? Do female executives in home health care demonstrate less vision for the future that their male counterparts? What do you do to see the bigger picture and develop your vision for the future?

Give us your comments below.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Home Health Nurse Writes Editor about Information Technology

I saw a letter to the editor of the Casper, Wyoming Star-Tribune on February 18, 2009 written by a home health nurse by the name of Wanda Jones. She says,"For every hour I spend with a patient in Home Health, I spend another 2 to 3 hours or more writing, documenting every required aspect of patient care required by Medicare and patient care in general. Although I agree with Medicare on these standards of care and that these must be documented, the time involved is costly to my agency financially, to me in the aspect of fatigue and stress, and more than likely one issue that burns out so many of our much-needed nursing staff in America and probably on a global scale."

Wanda goes on to comment that, "IT Health would affect the patient care in our health system across the board of physicians and other professions, institutions, hospitals, nursing facilities and others. Fast and complete transfer of information facilitates better patient care and treatment, frees up professionals to focus on patient care, feel less burned out than they would spending so much time dealing with paperwork."

I recall working with one of our clients, a very large home health agency in Alabama that was experiencing high turnover of nurses. As the leaders of this very successful company explored the causes of this high turnover, they discovered that nurse dissatisfaction and frustration with their information technology system was the cause. They made a major financial and strategic decision to purchase an entirely new system with a modern point of care computing capability.

Although the conversion to the new system was time consuming, expensive, and frustrating, the outcome was worth the investment. Not only did the new IT system improve there ability to capture and access clinical data, but the level of nurse frustration and burnout improved. Although this technology solution did not solve all of their problems and totally eliminate turnover, it made a significant contribution to the company.

As we move toward Home Health Care 2020, and the Agency Of the Future, more and more agencies will make significant investments in Information Technology to improve productivity, AND, to improve employee satisfaction with their work.

What do you think? How is this factor affecting your agency? What do you think about the Federal Government's economic stimulus plan and the provisions for health care IT?

Give us your comments below.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Gentiva Refocuses on Home Health Care for the Elderly

Gentiva Health Services, Inc. a leading provider of home health services, announced that it has entered into an Agreement for the sale of six branch offices in four cities that specialize in pediatric home health care. These offices comprise more than 80% of Gentiva's current pediatric care operations. Gentiva has deteremined that pediatric home health care will not be a core focus of the company's offerings.

What is your core focus? Have you clearly defined what business you are in, and more importantly what businesses you are NOT it? One of the factors that has made the large home health care companies like Gentiva and Amedisys so successful is their ability to define their core business, and their willingness to revisit their core business decisions regularly.

What are you and your executive team doing to refocus your core? What major decisions have you had regarding the focus of your home health business? Give us your comments below.

Amedisys reports growth in home health earnings

In my daily google alert on home health care, I see that Amedisys, one of the leading companies in our home health care industry has reported a significant growth in their profit for the fourth quarter of 2008. The company said its fourth-quarter profit rose about 58%, on 75% revenue growth. Amedisys has outperformed estimates in the past four quarters, and the company said the results mark the sixth consecutive year that earnings per share growth has exceeded 20%.

What level of growth are you seeing in your revenues and profits? This report by Amedisys supports what I have been saying in my Keynote speech, Home Health Care 2020. Successful home health care companies are continuing to grow rapidly and show profitability in spite of the challenges with the reimbursement systems at CMS.

If your agency is not growing, and if you are not increasing in profitability, it's time to get your executive team together to discuss your strategic focus, and to set new priorities for your strategic competencies.

What are you seeing in the home health care marketplace in terms of growth and profits? What is happening with your agency? What are the biggest barriers you see to growth and profits? Give us your comments below.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Celebrating 100 Years of Home Health Care

By Stephen Tweed

Congratulations to the Visiting Nurse Association of Hanover and Spring Grove in Pennsylvania for celebrating their 100th anniversary. I started my career in home health care back in Pennsylvania in the early 1980s, and I remember working with the then Executive Director of this VNA.

In my keynote presentation, Home Health Care 2020, I give a brief history of home health care in America, which goes back to 1880, and the fruit and flower mission of Albany, New York. The VNA movement really begain in the 1880s and 1890s in the northeast, in Albany, Buffalo, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. These agencies are still debating about which one was first, but I'll let you decide.

In the mean time, we continue to celebrate this long legacy of serving the elderly and the disabled. We can all be proud that we are part of an industry that is leaving a lasting legacy.

What is the legacy you are leaving behind with your agency? What do you know about the history of home health care? Tell us in the comments below.

Telehealth Improves Access to Health, says VA Study

By Stephen Tweed

One of the areas of technology that I talk about in my future trends presentations is telehealth. Many of our home health agency client around the country are getting measurable results from their telehealth programs. The biggest outcomes improvements are in the areas of reduced acute care hospitalization and unplanned urgent care for CHF and COPD patients. Today, I received a news release about a study conducted by the Veterans Administration showing the reults of their telehealth program.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 5 -- Veterans with chronic conditions can manage their health and avoid hospitalization by using special technology provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in their homes, according to a recent study.

"The study showed that home telehealth makes health care more effective because it improves patients' access to care and is easy to use," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake. "A real plus is that this approach to care can be sustained because it's so cost-effective and more veteran-centric. Patients in rural areas are increasingly finding that telehealth improves their access to health care and promotes their ongoing relationship with our health care system."

The study found a 25 percent reduction in the average number of days hospitalized and a 19 percent reduction in hospitalizations for patients using home telehealth. A's home telehealth program cares for 35,000 patients and is the largest of its kind in the world. The study looked at health outcomes from 17,025 VA home telehealth patients.

Are you using telehealth in your home health agency? Tell us about your results in the comments section below

Another Look at the Agency Of The Future

In my keynote speech, Home Health Care 2020: The Six Pillars of the Agency Of The Futuree, one of the pillars is the Technology Pillar. Here's an item that advances that concept.

The Victorian Order of Nurses in Canada (VON) has signed a two-year deal worth more than C$10 million with IBM to help the organization transform the way home and community health care is delivered in Canada.

IBM will provide new business processes and clinical technologies - including mobile wireless hand-held devices for hundreds of home health care providers to schedule appointments and collect, share and access patient information in real-time. Other systems such as human resources, talent management, benefits administration, finance and accounting will also be automated and interconnected as part of the project.

This transformational initiative will enable the national, not-for-profit organization's 52 locations across Canada to be more integrated and cost-efficient, thereby improving community services and patient care.

"VON's vision is to streamline practices and create a technology platform that is compatible with provincial systems, so we are in better position to integrate into the larger healthcare system," says Judith Shamian, president and chief executive officer of VON Canada.

Home health care is the fastest growing sector in health care and as the Canadian population ages, demand will increase. Approximately 900,000 Canadians regularly access home care. Between 1995 and 2002, the number of Canadians receiving home care increased by more than 60 per cent.

What are you doing in the Technology Pillar? What new innovations are you using to streamline practices and improve outcomes in home heath care? How are you using technology to grow your business?

Give us your ideas and innovations in the comments section below.

Monday, February 02, 2009

For Profit Hospice Pays $24.7 Million to Settle Fraud Claim

SouthernCare, an Birmingham, AL based hospice company, is paying the federal government $24.7 million to settle claims that the company fraudulently enrolled elderly people in hospice and charged Medicare for services when the patients were not dying, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The charges stem from two lawsuits unsealed Thursday that were filed in Birmingham's federal court by two former employees of SouthernCare, a private company with 95 offices in 15 states. The whistle-blowers, Tonja Rice and Nancy Romeo, will get $4.9 million from the settlement. Both are registered nurses. Rice filed her suit in 2005 and Romeo filed hers in 2007. The settlement unveiled Thursday said the fraudulent behavior took place from January 2000 through September 2008.

How Would Your Agency deal with the Death with Dignity Act?

February 2, 2009 - Seattle, WA - With just a month before the Death with Dignity Act takes effect, hospitals and other health-care institutions in the state of Washington are racing to learn the details of the law, decide if they will participate and put together policies that address the law's many nuances and complexities.

The Death with Dignity Act, modeled on a decade-old Oregon law, permits terminally ill patients with less than six months to live to request and self-administer lethal medication prescribed by a physician. It allows institutions and individual doctors, pharmacists and other health-care providers to opt out of participating.

You are the CEO of a home health agency. How would you deal with this new law if it were passed in your state? How would you deal with an employee who refused to dispense lethal drugs if asked to do so by a patient?

Give us your comments on these questions below.