Lifesprk CMO Sets Sights on Coronavirus, Building a ‘Wide and Deep’ Home Health Company

Lifesprk — the Minnesota-based health care provider with a suite of home-focused services — has hired Dr. Nick Schneeman as its chief medical officer.

Schneeman is the former CEO of Genevive, the largest geriatric practice in Minnesota. Overall, the new CMO of Lifesprk has over 30 years of experience in geratric care-related fields.

He joins Lifesprk at a particularly turbulent time for U.S. in-home care organizations, with the industry scrambling to mitigate the effects of COVID-19. Schneeman officially joined Lifesprk in mid-February.But the original attraction to Lifesprk was driven by Schneeman’s ideas for disruption in senior care, he told Home Health Care News.

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“It [all] relates to this phone call, which I get all the time,” Schneeman said. “[It goes], ‘My dad died last year and mom is not doing as well as we thought … her memory is worse than we thought. She’s on 12 different medications. She sees all these doctors. And my sister doesn’t really know what to do. Can you help me?’”

Prior to joining Lifesprk, the answer to that question was often “no.” Additionally, Schneeman couldn’t give a recommendation in the fee-for-service system in good faith, he said.

As a result of those frustrations, Schneeman wanted to create a company that was payer agnostic and able to tackle simple cases along with the most complex.

“That company is going to be Lifesprk,” he said.

Lifesprk has long prided itself on being an outlier within health care. The company was founded in 2004 with three employees; it now has closer to 700. In 2019, its patients had 62% fewer ER visits and 50% fewer hospitalizations than industry averages.

Among its service offerings, Lifesprk provides whole-person in-home care and home health services to individuals living at home and in senior living communities. It also maintains an on-site primary care service line.

The vision that Schneeman has for Lifesprk, led by CEO Joel Theisen, is a lofty one.

“Nobody has built this [kind of] company for a reason,” Schneeman said. “It’s hard to get it done. It can’t be done quickly … . I think the primary thing it starts with is relationships and getting to know what people’s hopes and wishes are. [It’s] being the trusted advisor, which is gone — people with complex health issues often don’t have a primary care physician who’s either accessible or an expert in all of their problems.”

Battling the coronavirus

Lifesprk, like most in-home care companies, cares for a population that is more severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. That means dealing with COVID-19 will likely be on the forefront of Schneeman’s agenda for at least the short term.

“This is new to all of us. I’m old enough that I [observed] the AIDS crisis,” Schneeman said. “I’ve been through changes in the health care landscape in the last 30 years. But this is still new, it’s still unfolding. I’m quite worried that people who appear to be most affected are the very people I’ve spent my life caring for.”

Internally, Lifesprk is trying to be as smart as it can, he said. Generally, that means providing care to the people who need it while making sure Lifesprk’s clinicians aren’t part of the vector issue.

Because the Lifesprk team works in many settings, including in senior living and in the hospitals, the company began to prepare for the pandemic before it was labeled as such. Those settings, which feature large groups of elderly people living or staying in close proximity to one another, have been the most at-risk areas thus far.

As part of its strategy, Lifesprk maintains a standing daily meeting dedicated to preparing for the virus. Lifesprk’s infection team has been readying itself since COVID-19 began to spread throughout parts of China in late 2019 and early 2020.

“There’s an advantage to our platform in terms of being able to support and care for people in the home,” Scheeman said. “We can definitely make an impact saving people’s lives and preventing more spread.”

Even though the hiring coincides with tough times in the industry, Schneeman and his new teammates are excited for what lies ahead.

“I love the people, I love the mission,” he said. “We’re going to build a wide and deep company that makes a huge impact in both the value crisis for Medicare but more importantly in the outcomes that our seniors deserve.”

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