Earlier this year, a three-way merger created one of the largest home health providers in the United States, and the combined company now is rebranding as “Elara Caring.”
The merger, which closed in May, unites Jackson, Michigan-based Great Lakes Caring; Cromwell, Connecticut-based National Home Health Care; and Addison, Texas-based Jordan Health Services.
Backed by private equity firms Blue Wolf Capital Partners and Kelso & Company, the merged entity will will be based out of the former Jordan headquarters building, just north of Dallas.
Elara Caring serves more than 65,000 patients each day across 16 states, employs about 32,500 caregivers, and will have annual revenue in excess of $1 billion.
By way of comparison, the largest publicly traded home health provider, LHC Group (Nasdaq: LHCG), provides care across 37 states and had a patient census of about 92,500 people as of Dec. 31, 2017.
Initially, all providers affiliated with the three-way merger will keep their existing brand names at the local level but will be part of the “Elara Caring Network.” Over time, agencies will start take the Elara Caring name, but the process will be gradual and might not involve every location, said G. Scott Herman, CEO of Elara Caring.
“We want to be sensitive to legacy businesses and current local market trends,” Herman told Home Health Care News. “Our current line of thinking is that with our corporate brand, we can establish a culture throughout the whole organization regardless of whether a location takes that brand name.”
Elara is one of Jupiter’s moons, which has a unique orbit, according to a press release that the company issued Tuesday. The idea is that each patient and family has unique needs, and Elara Caring will meet those needs even when they do not match up with what is considered a “normal path.”
This idea is not only behind the Elara Caring rebrand but the organization’s mission, “Right Care, Right Time, Right Place.”
Offering personal care, skilled home health, hospice and behavioral health, Elara Caring does have the capacity to meet a variety of patient needs. Currently, about 50% of its revenue comes from its personal care business and the balance comes from the other three pieces, Herman said.
One goal moving forward is to build out the continuum of care in the various markets that the company serves, creating what it has dubbed a “caretinuum.” Currently, its footprint is concentrated in the Northeast, Midwest and Southwest, and acquisition activity will be primarily driven by creating the full “caretinuum” in these regions, according to Herman.
Already, there has been activity to this end in Missouri, and the Northeast is also being targeted for expansion, he said.
However, simply having the ability to provide different types of services is only one piece of the puzzle. Elara Caring also intends to leverage technology and data analytics to ensure that care is happening at the right time—ideally, in time to prevent a patient’s condition from worsening. This would allow more people to avoid the hospital or skilled nursing facility and remain at home, which is the place that the vast majority of seniors have identified as their preferred setting for care.
Already, Elara Caring is achieving success with this approach.
“By identifying patients that are about to have a problem and creating meaningful interventions, we double the amount of time patients in our personal care business stay at home,” Herman said, comparing this patient group with those who are not yet experiencing the full “caretinuum” model.
Overall, Elara Caring is challenging conventional wisdom that says an aging person with chronic conditions will experience an inevitable decline in health and progress in a linear way from less intensive to more intensive services. Rather, each patient has an individual health journey that can take unexpected turns, and Elara Caring believes it can start to predict changes in condition in time to prevent unwanted detours, or at least to respond in a more effective manner when changes do occur.
This value proposition may appeal to Medicare Advantage payers, health systems and other managed care entities that are seeking to efficiently manage costs and outcomes for patient populations. Indeed, Elara Caring is having productive discussions with these types of organizations, including all the large payers, Herman said.
Notably, the payers are interested in leveraging everything from Elara Caring’s personal care to its skilled home health capabilities, even looking at the potential for distributed home-care based networks.
“There’s a lot of movement out there with those plans,” Herman said.
Going forward, there is still some work to be done. Elara Caring has partnered with auditing and advisory firm KPMG on local-level integration. On the tech front, the company is close to having all of its personal care locations on a common platform, although it is too early to announce what platform specifically, Herman said. On the skilled home health and hospice side, Elara Caring uses the Homecare Homebase product, and also has a variety of programs to organize and analyze data.
While efforts to combine the companies are ongoing, Herman is pleased to note that the three-way integration is ahead of schedule.
“We’re moving forward well,” he said.
Written by Tim Mullaney