Lifesprk Venture Reduces Health System Readmissions, Adds Innovator Bill Thomas

When Homespire launched in May, the goal of the new private-duty home care model was simple: Use an in-home approach to cut health care costs, reduce rehospitalization rates and prevent emergency room visits for Utah’s rapidly aging population.

Six months later, the joint venture between Intermountain Healthcare and Lifesprk is already reaching key benchmarks, most notably a sharp reduction in hospital admissions. And hitting those milestones has helped Homespire bring on big names, including well-known senior care innovator Dr. Bill Thomas.

Homespire came to be after Utah-based Intermountain — a health system with 22 hospitals, more than 180 clinics and its own health insurance plan, SelectHealth — spent nearly two years looking for a home care partner to serve older adults in its home state. The goal was to keep seniors out of Intermountain’s acute care facilities.


Ultimately, Minnesota-based home care provider Lifesprk, one of the fastest growing companies in its state, came out on top, now owning 45% of Homespire to Intermountain’s 55%.

“We’ve been extremely impressed with Homespire’s impact already,” Jeff McNally, medical director for Intermountain Homecare and Hospice, told Home Health Care News. “We’ve seen tremendous reductions in re-hospitalization and ER rates for the clients served, and every ER or hospital visit avoided saves seniors and the system money.”

Reducing hospitalizations


Joel Theisen, CEO of Lifesprk and Homespire, has the numbers to backup McNally’s claims.

“Collectively, our first 40 clients had 30 hospitalizations in the one year prior to the Homespire experience,” Theisen told HHCN. “Since we’ve taken them on, there’s only been one hospitalization and one ER visit — both the same client.”

Additionally, Homespire’s care costs remain lower than alternatives at around $2,500 per month, according to Theisen. Comparatively, median monthly costs for home health care services in Utah linger around $4,000, while monthly semi-private nursing home room rent exceeds $6,000, according to the most recent Genworth Cost of Care Survey.

Homespire fills a gap in Intermountain’s services, offering home care modeled after Lifesprk’s offerings, the cornerstone of which is private-duty home care. The Lifesprk approach to wellness offers clients personal care managers who are registered nurses. The RNs create custom-built care plans that focus on social and medical determinants of health.

“It’s not disease-centered,” Theisen said. “It’s not centered on traditional old methods and processes. [Intermountain] wants to integrate the person-centered approach.”

Adding Bill Thomas

Lifesprk and Homespire’s person-centered approach appeals to high-profile senior care leader Bill Thomas. A longtime friend of Theisen who has also served on Lifesprk’s advisory board, Thomas recently joined Homespire’s advisory board and expanded his role at Lifesprk. There, he took on the position of chief independence officer, a role in which he says his job is to help people protect and extend their independence.

“I think we’re in the early stages of an enormous shift from a hospital-centered system to a community-based system,” Thomas told HHCN. “What really attracts me about Lifesprk is that it has figured out that helping people stay in the community is actually the most valuable and cutting-edge innovation in the field right now.”

Thomas is known for innovations such as the Green House model of long-term care and tiny homes for aging called Minka, and he is also the chief wellness officer of Holiday Retirement, the nation’s largest provider of independent living communities.

Lifesprk’s projects even outside of the Homespire JV are piquing Thomas’ interest. One example is its new primary care program, Lifesprk Health, organized not around hospitals, but around keeping people independent.

“Rather than focusing exclusively on weaknesses, we’re taking a strength-based approach to primary care that’s really designed to help people stay at home longer,” Thomas said.

Planning for growth

Currently, Homespire has 45 clients in the Salt Lake City area, while it’s also received about 230 in-house referrals from Intermountain’s hospitals and other divisions, Theisen said.

In 2019, Homespire has its eye on expansion. Goals include continued growth across Utah, where the 65-and-older population will likely double over the next 50 years, according to data from the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.

And that’s just the beginning, Theisen said.

“When it comes to overall growth, we’re really excited,” he said. “We’ve got one national deal and one local deal that are pretty massive that we are hopefully going to be able to announce in the next few weeks. We’ve been working on forming large relationships with two other provider systems that will definitely be a huge part of our growth for 2019 and beyond.”

And while Theisen says Homespire is “on track to do great things” financially for Intermountain and Lifesprk, neither company is looking at financial gains in the short-term, he said. Instead, Homespire is playing the long game.

“Our intention from the beginning together (has been) to redesign the senior strategy within Intermountain,” Theisen said. “The short term impact of the home care revenue is less important than the overall strategy as we go into the future.”

Written by Bailey Bryant

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