Leaning on Virtual Care Models, Prospero Health Charts Course Toward Future Growth

Home-based care provider Prospero Health started out operating with a care model based on in-person care and supervision.

But its current model doesn’t look like it did before COVID-19 — and it probably won’t ever look that way again. Today, Prospero Health is learning to evolve with the virus, while moving into as many new markets as possible to make a difference.

The company offers a wide range of non-medical and medical home-based care services across 10 states.

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In addition to hands-on care, Prospero Health helps patients with issues in their home that could be decreasing their quality of life or putting them at greater risk for hospitalization. Such services could include addressing fall risks, for example.

Since it began spreading across the country, the COVID-19 virus has put older adults and other high-risk individuals on red alert. On its end, Prospero Health’s average patient is 83 years old, a fact that forced the company to think seriously about the coronavirus very early on.

The provider’s most recent move to support its patient population was an expansion to Birmingham, Alabama, where UnitedHealthcare helped the provider identify an area in need of home-based care. UnitedHealthcare is one of Prospero Health’s insurance partners.

Prospero Health will now begin serving 100 patients in the Birmingham area, with the hope of growing its Alabama census to about 400 by the end of the year.

“Somewhat paradoxically, the emergence of COVID-19 makes it that much more imperative that people have access to care in the place that they feel the safest, which is in their home,” Doug Wenners, the founder and CEO of Prospero Health, told Home Health Care News.

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While Prospero Health is based in Boston, it has a large chunk of its operations in Memphis, Tennessee. It does not plan to open a brick-and-mortar office in Birmingham.

Instead, it will leverage a scheduling software program that matches patient needs and preferences with clinicians. Clinicians will get assigned to patients within range of their home, with the software building out the most convenient schedule without sacrificing the health of the patient.

“Memphis is our other big office, as far as where we bring people for training and things like that, but we are mainly remote. Our model is really based on going to the patient,” Dr. Karen Kennedy, regional medical director at Prospero Health, told HHCN. “What we’re trying to do is hire clinicians that are in these areas so that they’re local as well. We want our clinicians to be in the same community with our patients.”

Apart from its recent expansion to Birmingham, telehealth services have also become a vital part of Prospero Health’s new care plan.

“Whether they were scheduled or unscheduled visits, we wanted to make sure that we were telephonically in touch and available to our patients,” Wenners said. “Our core care model involves 24/7 support, so we’re always available to them anyway. But we wanted to make sure that we were really doubling down on our accessibility.”

In line with that mission, Prospero gives patients 4G- and LTE-enabled tablets when they don’t have access to such devices or WiFi.

“That’s now all part of our core care model, even though it was originally in response to the need to provide access to care for patients at risk for COVID-19,” Wenners said. “So we can see patients in their home physically, which is still kind of the traditional way of serving patients, but then we augment that with telephonic and virtual tablet enabled visits as well.”

Larger expansion plans

Prospero Health is planning the same approach it is taking in Birmingham in other areas of Alabama, including Mobile, Montgomery and Baldwin. Afterward, it has its sight set much higher.

“We’re going to be in Florida and Texas next year,” Kennedy said. “We also have other expansion plans with Maryland, Michigan, Wisconsin and California being kind of the next big jumps.”

The COVID-19 virus, whether directly or indirectly, has created a health care deficit of sorts. Patients aren’t getting the kind of care they need, and that’s part of the motivation for expanding amid a health crisis, according to Kennedy.

The public health emergency has seemed to accelerate Prospero Health’s goals — not stymie them. Put optimistically, the company sees it as an opportunity.

“The need now is so much greater for home-based care and for us it’s a real opportunity to serve the patient population in need,” Wenners said.

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