New Business Strategy Has Interim HealthCare Looking ‘Beyond the Diagnosis’

It’s already been a busy year for Interim HealthCare Inc. President and CEO Jennifer Sheets, who took charge of the Sunrise, Florida-based home health franchise in January.

But there’s still much to accomplish as 2019 winds down, including the launch of a new company-wide strategy focused on social determinants of health and “looking beyond the diagnosis,” Sheets told Home Health Care News. Better targeting millennial decisionmakers and ramping up Interim’s educational efforts are also among the CEO’s top priorities.

Founded in 1966, Interim HealthCare Inc. is part of parent company Caring Brands International, where Sheets — a former Bayada Home Health Care executive — similarly serves as president and CEO. Including its U.K.-based Bluebird Care and Australia-based Just Better Care franchises, Caring Brands International oversees more than 530 locations across seven countries.

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Meanwhile, Interim’s team of caregivers alone provides roughly 25 million hours of home health, hospice and palliative care services to 190,000 people each year.

“The great thing about this role — and Interim, with its history — is that I’m joining a company with a legacy of 52 years in the industry,” Sheets said. “That’s let me run a lot faster than you typically are able to when you first come into an organization of this size and scale.”

Interim’s new business strategy is called “HomeLife Enrichment.”

Broadly, the strategy is all about providing person-centered care to the patients that Interim serves, which means addressing mind, body and spirit, according to Sheets.

In a practical sense, that could mean helping patients manage their finances while also providing nutritional support and respite care for family members.

“Interim is really focusing on all of the things that pull together and allow someone to heal and experience quality health care at home,” Sheets said. “We see across health care a lot of people trying to crack this nut.”

Measuring what matters

The phrase “social determinants of health” isn’t exactly new, but it has taken on a profound level of significance in 2019, thanks both to emerging findings related to reducing hospital readmissions and steps federal policymakers have taken under the Medicare Advantage (MA) program.

This year is the first year that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) allowed non-medical in-home services and supports to be covered as MA supplemental benefits, a move that many home-based care providers see as a huge opportunity.

In 2020, CMS will start letting plans offer any supplemental benefits that “have a reasonable expectation of improving or maintaining the health or overall function” of individuals with chronic conditions.

“More people are starting to figure out that we need to look beyond what’s clinically right in front of us,” Sheets, a former nurse, said. “And we’re taking that idea to a new level.”

The shift toward social determinants of health is happening on state and regional levels, too.

For example, Nevada is integrating different primary care models to ensure a move toward holistic care, and a past survey of Medicaid managed care plans found that 91% of plans are actively working to shape products around social determinants.

Additionally, in a 2017 Deloitte survey of about 300 hospitals and health systems, nine out of 10 participants said they screen patients to better gauge their health-related social needs.

As one key step in Interim’s HomeLife Enrichment strategy, the franchise will begin tracking “healthy days at home” in place of hospital stays, Sheets said.

“Instead of measuring hospital days, which almost everybody in the industry measures, we’re going to switch that to measuring healthy days at home,” she said. “That’s the goal, right? How many healthy days can we [see] here, helping to keep this person at home?”

That’s a stat likely to appeal to potential health care partners and payers alike.

And insurance giant Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM) actually measures something similar — Healthy Days, as defined by the CDC — through its Bold Goals initiative.

“As the nation’s senior population grows, they’ll play a larger and more vital role in all of our communities,” Humana President and CEO Bruce D. Broussard previously said. “Seniors face unique challenges, including living with multiple chronic conditions and social determinants that can lead to poor health. Learning to solve these issues will help all of us.”

Home care education and millennial decisionmakers

Refocusing Interim through the HomeLife Enrichment strategy isn’t the only priority for Sheets.

Home care education and outreach is likewise in the CEO’s sights.

“It frustrates me both as a [individual] but also as a leader in the industry how big the knowledge deficit still is related to all things home care,” she said. “Quite frankly, a lot of physicians, health systems and payers don’t understand all the care that can be provided in the home.”

That’s especially true when it comes to Interim, which has made specialized care lines a key component of its operational success and growth.

Overall, Interim added at least 15 new territories to its footprint in 2019.

Currently, the home care franchise provides a number of specialty home-based offerings designed to care for patients living with congestive heart failure, dementia, diabetes and several other complex conditions.

“We all know our [senior] population is continuing to grow, is continuing to change,” Sheets said. “We’re seeing more and more people who need a transition to home-based programs. We’re going to continue to work on and see more specialized programs being developed, especially around acute care in the home, comfort care and symptom management.”

The franchise is specifically looking to “ramp up” its dementia program, expanding it into a comprehensive cognitive-care program, she added.

Better targeting millennial decisionmakers — who think more like traditional consumers when shopping for care for their aging loved ones — is on Interim’s agenda as well.

“As we’re seeing the senior population grow, children, grandchildren and soon even great-grandchildren are going to be primary decisionmakers of our care,” Sheets said. “We have to learn to connect and respond to what’s important to that generation. They want ready at their fingertips access to information.”

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