New VNA Care CEO Plans to Seize ACO Opportunities

The home health industry faced a few uncertainties and challenges within the past year, but for seasoned industry veteran Holly Chaffee, the “sky’s the limit” as she assumes her new post as president and CEO of Boston-based VNA Care.

A subsidiary of Newton, Massachusetts-based Atrius Health, VNA Care is a non-profit provider of home health and hospice services, providing care for more than 50,000 patients each year.

Chaffee took time away from her schedule to speak with Home Health Care News about her goals for the organization, and why the industry needs more collaboration between all players in the care continuum.

Discuss your interest in pursuing this role at VNA care.

It’s a role I’ve been preparing for, for the last 30 years to work with an organization that is the size of VNA Care and that has a partner with an accountable care organization (ACO) that is very successful. I’m really excited about that opportunity. I am a person who likes to be busy and likes to start new programs, and I think that this is an opportunity to expand upon new things that can be helpful in the health care environment.

Before you joined VNA Care, you served as president and CEO of Porch Light/VNA Home Care. How did that experience help you, as you transition into this new role with VNA Care?

I had been with Porch Light for eight years, and we put new processes in place, new electronic medical records, grew programs, had a merger with the Chicopee VNA. We had a branding process, renamed the organization … and we have a lot of good programs in place, a lot of good processes in place, and I believe that we could duplicate those processes. Porch Light is a five-star agency. We grew it to a five-star agency with the boots on the ground.

What is your plan for growing the VNA Care brand?

VNA care is located throughout the states of Massachusetts, and we’ll continue to look at opportunities to grow VNA Care. Through partnerships with Atrius, I believe that that expansion will definitely be able to be accomplished.

What excites you most about this role?

[Atrius’] new payment systems out there for home health and hospice. It’s very important to [not only] follow the triple aim and control costs of care, but to provide comprehensive care. With the specialty programs that VNA Care can provide to Atrius in partnership with the physicians there, I believe that’s a win-win for all people in the communities that we serve.

It seems like 2017 was a pretty challenging year for the home health industry, with respect to regulations from CMS. I’m curious to know your perspective on where you see the industry going this year. What challenges lie ahead?

We have challenges here in Massachusetts with the nurse aide registry. We have challenges with the new conditions of participation (CoPs) being implemented, and making sure that those processes are followed and put into place. I believe that we really are in the midst of an overhaul of the whole health care system, and all the players are trying to figure out where they fit into this system. How will they be able to proceed and financially be sustainable with all the changes and the payment cuts to home health and other post-acute settings?

You mentioned earlier that one thing that’s on your radar is making partnerships across the care continuum with ACOs. How do you plan to pursue partnerships for VNA Care.

We’re excited about growing the programs that we have in place. Some of them have just started, some of them have been in place for a while; but just taking a look at every opportunity is available to do something to help with the specialties, whether it’s clients with COPD who have respiratory issues, being able to send respiratory therapists into the home to help these patients with those chronic conditions. I really think the sky’s the limit; there are so many opportunities out there for us and getting into the organization and seeing where we want to focus with all of the clinical managers and the partners we have is going to be how we’re going to develop that.

We spoke earlier about what industry issues are on your radar. But if you were able to change one thing about the home health industry as a whole, what would it be?

I would say the collaboration piece—that people really have a full understanding of what VNAs do, because many people don’t understand the breadth of what the nurses, therapists and home health aides do in a VNA. Until they utilize our system or have the need for it, I don’t think [people] understand the breadth of what Visiting Nurse organizations can do for patients in their homes.

I’m assuming education plays a huge component in that, no?

Absolutely. It’s educating physician practices, educating family members. You have to remember that there has been a huge culture change in home health care. And so, if you were a nurse 25 years ago, you could go into a patient’s home who had chronic illnesses and you could pretty much put 24-hour care in a home that was funded by insurance. That has changed. So, even though the practitioners understand that change, people in the communities don’t. … The practices have changed so much that people are not aware of that. It’s not just the culture of health care that has to change, it’s the culture of families understanding how the changes affect them.

Looking ahead as you get settled in your new role, where do you see yourself three months from now? Six months from now?

We will be implementing a new electronic medical record, so that’s going to be a big focus for the first three months. Getting to know all of my staff; it’s important to me that they know who I am and that I know who they are and that we can learn what each other’s strengths are so that we could capitalize on them to empower people to do their jobs in a way that they feel comfortable to be working at VNA Care.

Written by Carlo Calma

Carlo Calma
Business Reporter at Aging Media Network
Carlo enjoys running and taking indoor cycling and rowing classes. He tempers his active lifestyle by indulging in Chicago's diverse food scene.