AccentCare, one of the largest home health providers in the U.S., was among the first in-home care providers to publicly discuss its coronavirus response. In early March, AccentCare CEO Steve Rodgers told Home Health Care News that the health care world had never “quite seen a crisis parallel to” the COVID-19 virus.
Since then, the Dallas-based company has battled the virus from coast to coast, from New York to Washington. Now, AccentCare’s expanding leadership team is hoping that the lessons learned along the way will help it manage the new surges emerging across the Sun Belt and other parts of the nation.
AccentCare specifically has its eye on Texas and Florida. Both states are seeing around 10,000 new cases per day, according to NPR.
Dave Davis, AccentCare’s chief clinical innovation officer, told HHCN that his company was ready for the surges.
“We were definitely preparing for it,” Davis said. “We never stopped things like sourcing personal protective equipment (PPE), or continuing to train our staff and ensuring that the majority of them are able to care for someone who is COVID-19-positive. We’ve never slacked for a moment on any of that during the course of this.”
Overall, Accentcare has over 170 locations across the U.S. It provides skilled home health and personal care services, along with hospice care, private-duty nursing and care management services.
Davis, in particular, has been a leader within the company on the COVID-19 front.
“We’re still learning on a day-to-day basis,” Davis said. “We still reach out to referral sources and our strategic partners to let them know what we have done, what we’re prepared for, what we’re bracing for and what our strategies are so we can continue to say ‘yes’ and treat those patients — and also contribute to the throughput so there’s not patients filling beds in the hospital when it’s unnecessary.”
Early on, AccentCare experienced a disruption in line with the rest of the industry after COVID-19 hit. The company saw a significant decline in visits and an uptick in low-utilization payment adjustments (LUPAs).
The census has since mostly recovered, Davis said.
But during that disruption, AccentCare spent its time preparing itself for the rest of COVID-19, a problem it was expecting to deal with for the long haul.
“We have always felt that this was not going to go away fast,” Davis said.
Developing a different plan
When COVID-19 was becoming a crisis, Davis was grateful that the company had done pilots and made partnerships in the remote patient monitoring realm.
It would prove crucial as the company’s COVID-19 plan came together.
“One of the things that became very evident early on was that virtual visits were going to be an integral part of our care planning for these patients,” Davis said. “Being able to say ‘yes’ to our hospitals and being able to say ‘yes’ to [skilled nursing facilities] and the other partners that we work with became very important to us.”
Initially, AccentCare had a team of clinicians specifically set aside to communicate the telehealth portions of care plans to patients, but now it has become an everyday task that most of the workers deal with.
AccentCare has partnered with St. Petersburg, Florida-based Synzi, a telehealth company that partners with agencies across post-acute care, since March 2019.
The company has leveraged Synzi’s platform — mostly its telehealth app and virtual care technology — to carry out safer interactions during the crisis.
“Whether [these visits] are billable or not billable, we knew it was doing the right thing for the patient,” Davis said. “[We needed] to keep in contact with them and it allowed us to do teaching, training, assessment, observation and medication management, [among other things].”
On its end, Synzi has seen demand increase by as much as 3,000% since March.
“AccentCare has done a great job, and we’ve got a great partnership,” Synzi CEO Lee Horner told HHCN. “We bring new, creative ways and ideas to how to leverage the technology because it’s not a single-threaded type of strategy. But it’s that idea of collaborating [that helps] to solve real time problems that they’re having with different patient populations that are in need of different solutions.”
And one of the patient populations that exists are those that do not need in-person care, but instead just need supervision and guidance through their bout with COVID-19.
Managing that group of patients bodes well for the mission to keep hospital beds open and the risk of spread low.
Telehealth communication also offers a way to decrease that patient anxiety that pops up when a patient may be feeling one or two COVID-19 symptoms, but doesn’t definitively have it.
“Being able to put a set of eyes on the patient to try to determine whether they have the right symptoms is an area that we definitely have seen that anxiety piece, where people may think they have contracted the virus and need us to [ease their minds],” Horner said. “I think the other piece is helping AccentCare relieve some of the stress and burden that’s being put on the health system, to help get their patients on our platform and to move them home.”
In addition to its coronavirus response, AccentCare has also been busy adding to its leadership team.
The company announced Wednesday that it has added Anita Messal as chief integration officer and Semone Neuman as the chief administrative officer.
Messal, who will be responsible for “transitioning and integrating major growth projects,” has more than 35 years of experience in health care, insurance and benefits. She most recently served as president and COO for PlanSource Benefits Administration Inc., and also has held numerous leadership roles for Optum Health.
Neuman will be responsible for “advancing AccentCare’s operational capabilities across the enterprise and propagating its innovative shared services structure,” according to the company.
She most recently held executive leadership roles at Health Management Systems (HMS).
“We are excited to have both Anita and Semone join AccentCare,” Rogers said in a statement. “Both are extraordinarily well respected in the health care industry and bring significant experience in building and scaling successful businesses. [Each] will play pivotal roles supporting our continued market-leading, organic growth and M&A strategies.”