Amedisys CEO: Creative Deals, Private Duty Services Could Follow Nashville Move

Amedisys Inc. (NASDAQ: AMED) is moving key members of its executive team to Nashville, in an effort to forge deeper connections with major health care players and potentially expand into new areas, including private duty services, according to CEO Paul Kusserow.

“The general theme is, I need my executives in a market with good, knowledgeable players to hire and deal with,” Kusserow told Home Health Care News in an interview Friday, after the company publicly announced its plans for Nashville.

Amedisys has been based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana since its founding in 1982, and the major home health and hospice provider will continue to have a strong presence there, Kusserow emphasized.

He will split his time between Baton Rouge and Nashville, and Chief Financial Officer Ronnie LaBorde will remain in the Louisiana headquarters. Currently, there are about 400 employees at the corporate offices in Baton Rouge, and roughly 30 of its top leadership team will be relocating to Music City.

Executives overseeing managed care, bundled payments, information technology, and those that work closely on government policy will be among those making the move.

Nashville is a major center for health care, being home to 16 publicly traded companies; these include HCA, the largest operator of for-profit medical facilities in the world, and Community Health Systems, which operates roughly 200 hospitals throughout the country.

But these are not the only companies that Amedisys is interested in doing more business with, Kusserow said.

“We’re on the hunt for assessment tools and companies, and I like the private duty business, the unskilled side, there are some entrepreneurs there we want to talk with,” he said.

Amedisys currently does not offer any private duty services, but it is one of the largest providers on the Medicare side, with nearly 400 home health and hospice locations 34 states and annual revenue of nearly $1.2 billion.

The interest in private duty is driven in part by Kusserow’s own professional experiences, he explained to HHCN.

He previously was with major health insurer Humana, which during his tenure acquired a private duty company called SeniorBridge.

“That was a very successful acquisition in the ability to use unskilled caregivers to drive down [hospital] readmissions, or the general admissions, of people with multiple chronic conditions or severe chronic conditions,” he said. “It’s a business line we like, and we’re looking at it.”

The focus on reducing readmissions is something that has become increasingly important for home health providers, due to bundled risk, accountable care organizations and other new payment models.

Under many of these arrangements, hospitals partner more closely with home health entities and other post-acute providers so that patient care is more coordinated. The providers share financial rewards if by working together they achieve cost savings while delivering high-quality outcomes.

The Amedisys executives in Nashville will be able to more easily position the company for success in these models with their more direct access to other big players, Kusserow said. 

There are multiple other reasons Nashville makes sense as a hub for the Amedisys executives, he stressed.

One is that Tennessee is an even more major market for the provider than Louisiana. The hiring pool is Nashville is especially strong thanks to its health care hub status. And a little more than a third of the analysts covering Amedisys are based there, so the move will enhance the company’s transparency to Wall Street, Kusserow said.

As for what the company is working on in the near-term, one focus will be its “hospital in the home” capabilities, Kusserow said.

Amedisys acquired Clinically Home LLC—a company enabling hospital-level home care services by connecting physicians with skilled in-home caregivers via enhanced video—but then essentially “mothballed” the asset, according to Kusserow.

Now, Amedisys is putting together a business plan around Clinically Home and talking to potential partners in rolling out the service, he said. These potential partners are exhibiting interest, and the fall is targeted as the time for more solid progress to be seen, he said.

The executive team migration to Nashville is the latest of Kusserow’s big initiatives since taking the helm in December 2014. At that point, the company was trying to bounce back from a $150 million federal legal settlement and an overall troubled balance sheet.

After a C-Suite shakeup and abandoning a foundering effort at a home-grown technology platform, Amedisys has seen its share price surge.

Kusserow is confident that the move to Nashville will add further luster to the company.

“I think we got a ‘twofer’ in a lot of ways,” he said. “We’re honoring our history in Baton Rouge with the great depth we’re keeping there, while the influence of Nashville and the whole spectrum of health care ideas and people will be a very good thing for our thinking and ability to be creative.”

Written by Tim Mullaney