A subsidiary of Kindred Healthcare is expanding to help home health providers, skilled nursing facilities and other post-acute care providers deliver on promises of patient-centered care. The subsidiary—Lacuna Health—publicly announced its name and mission on Thursday.
Officially formed in January of this year, Lacuna Health is wholly-owned by Louisville, Kentucky-based Kindred Healthcare, standing as a separate subsidiary. The roots of the subsidiary are in a Kindred call center set up in 2014 that previously only served the company’s internal divisions, Lacuna Health CEO Brian Holzer told Home Health Care News.
“I was very much enamored with what Kindred had set up in terms of a patient engagement model serving Kindred’s divisions,” Holzer said. “We made the decision to reposition the capability into an arms-length, C-corporation that would continue to serve Kindred, but would also turn itself on to the market and sell its services across the United States.”
Lacuna offers its services to clients on a white-label basis. Pricing differs by client, product and scope of services being requested.
In addition to his role as Lacuna Health CEO, Holzer simultaneously serves as president of Kindred Innovations, launched last summer.
The separate development of Lacuna Health from the call center was one of Holzer’s first major actions as president. On a high level, the move falls in line with Kindred Healthcare’s overarching goal of evolving from being a company that solely provides care to one that provides industry solutions as well.
Lacuna Health draws its name from the Latin word for “gap” or “missing piece.”
“It was obvious to us that there were tremendous benefits to provide to the marketplace based on our expertise and experience in doing this for Kindred,” Holzer said. “We have not stopped doing this for Kindred … but we’re able to do both now.”
Kindred Healthcare is owned by private equity firms TPG Capital and Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe. In addition to the Lacuna subsidiary, Kindred Healthcare operates transitional care and inpatient rehabilitation hospitals.
The two private equity firms, along with insurance company Humana (NYSE: HUM), also own Kindred at Home, the nation’s largest home health provider. Kindred at Home was separated from Kindred Healthcare when the PE firms and Humana executed their acquisition of the company earlier this year.
Kindred at Home is one of the health care organizations that currently uses Lacuna Health’s offerings, despite the fact it is no longer part of Kindred Healthcare.
“One of our most significant customers in terms of size of the activity we provide is our legacy home health and hospice organization, Kindred at Home,” Holzer said. “We deliver a significant service to them, and we have for the past several years.”
Lacuna Health has signed “fair-market value, arms-length contracts” with every legacy subsidiary of Kindred Healthcare, he said.
Building the brand
Lacuna Health’s flagship offering is its nurse hotline service, which provides nurse-led support to patients and caregivers throughout the country, helping them navigate the often complex U.S. health care system.
Kindred Healthcare set up the contact center in 2014; it now receives roughly 75,000 calls annually.
“A consumer today, a lot of times in the post-acute space, is confused about what to do,” Susan Moss, vice president of marketing and communications for Kindred Healthcare, told HHCN. “A family member leaves the hospital—maybe a grandmother has broken her hip—and they don’t know where to go.”
Besides the hotline, Lacuna Health’s services include clinical after-care services, physician practice support and hospital placement solutions. All led by nurses, Lacuna Health’s offerings are designed to streamline care transitions and help reduce readmissions as patients move from care setting to care setting.
For a home health provider, for example, the after-care services offering, follows up with patients 30, 60 and 90 days after an episode concludes. The purpose of the followup is to determine whether patients still need skilled care and address any clinical gaps that may exist.
If Lacuna Health’s nurses feel that a patient may need more skilled in-home care, they make a recommendation back to the home health agency using its services, which then does its own independent assessment.
“I think obviously there’s an impetus now across all verticals within health care to drive toward patient engagement and patient-centered health care,” Holzer said. “What’s complicating that is resources, and Lacuna can provide the resources that enable health care organizations to fill the promise of patient-centered health care.”
Expanding beyond Kindred
The University of Louisville Hospital Comprehensive Stroke Center has begun using Lacuna Health’s follow-up services in a pilot program for stroke patients after they leave the hospital.
The pilot program, also announced Thursday, is known as U Care.
As part of the program, registered nurses will reach out to patients by phone on a regular schedule to monitor patients’ recovery progress, check their medications, ensure they have made appropriate follow-up appointments and answer any questions or health concerns that arise. Specifically, the program will follow 250 stroke patients for 45 days after discharge, whether they go home or to a rehab facility for recovery.
Stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death and a leading cause of adult disability in the United States, according to University of Louisville Hospital. On average, someone in the United States suffers a stroke every 40 seconds, someone dies of a stroke every four minutes, and nearly 800,000 people suffer a new or recurrent stroke each year.
“We continually strive for excellence in the acute treatment of stroke patients,” Kerri Remmel, director of the University of Louisville Hospital Stroke Center and chair of the university’s department of neurology, said in a statement. “U Care adds the vital step of thoroughly programmed follow-up with stroke patients to ensure they continue recovery, avoid unnecessary readmission to the hospital and prevent a second stroke.”
Lacuna Health’s partners also include a hospitalist group based in Florida, according to Holzer.
Since beginning operations in January, the Kindred Healthcare subsidiary has been steadily signing external customers, he said.
Written by Robert Holly