With Spinoff Underway, Encompass Home Health CEO Barb Jacobsmeyer Looks to Put Staffing Woes in Rearview

Barb Jacobsmeyer’s takeover of Encompass Health’s (NYSE: EHC) home health and hospice segment took place during abnormal times.

For starters, she was replacing a former CEO in April Anthony, who originally founded the segment. She also assumed the role in June, six months after Encompass Health had announced it was pursuing “strategic alternatives” for the segment.

And, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic was ongoing.


Previously the head of Encompass Health’s in-patient rehab business, Jacobsmeyer has had to learn quickly the differences that come with overseeing a remote workforce.

Nonetheless, she’s bullish on the staffing situation, perhaps more than most. She’ll be taking that head on as the segment begins to rebrand into the new publicly traded company “Enhabit Home Health & Hospice.”

Home Health Care News sat down with Jacobsmeyer for a one-on-one conversation at Home Care 100 to discuss her first year on the job, the rebranding and what else the future holds for her company.


You can read HHCN’s conversation with Jacobsmeyer below, edited for length and clarity.

HHCN: What has the the learning curve been like as you’ve adjusted to a role in home health and hospice? What are the starkest differences from your former position?

Jacobsmeyer: The learning curve has definitely, for me, been about dealing with a mobile workforce. That’s really different than being able to make the rounds with all of your employees within a few hours.

But coming from the hospital side has helped me in that I know what I always expected from home health as a provider for my patients. And so I know what our team should take pride in and what we do really well in. I’m kind of able to approach it from a different direction and say, “Guys, take credit for all this great work that you’re doing, because that’s what your referral sources are looking for.”

I can help them see it from the other perspective, and I think that part has been helpful.

You just rounded out your executive team. Is having your team officially in place a relief, knowing that you guys are finally ready to move forward?

Yes. There’s never been an executive at the HR level in the organization. So we hired our first chief human resources officer, and that really complements the whole team.

It’s a nice blend of new people like myself and the CFO Crissy Carlisle, and then people that have been there for a long time, like our VP of operations and sales, as well as our strategy person. Those folks have been there for a long time. It’s just a nice blend of some folks with new ideas and some folks that have “been there, done it.” And it’s really a great feeling to have the whole team together.

On the recent Q4 earnings call, you seemed very optimistic about staffing, or at least as optimistic as you can be in this environment. Why is that the case?

I think it’s because I have been successful in the past there, when I’ve focused on retention and on employee engagement. I did that on the hospital side, and I’m bringing that focus to home health and hospice. 

I’ve challenged our team. We always talk about how hard it is to recruit. And I argue with them that we recruit thousands of nurses every year, and what we have to focus on is retention. Because if we can retain, then we’re just in such a better place. It doesn’t help us if we’re hiring, but we’re losing as many as we’re hiring.

We’ve had a successful couple of quarters here. It makes me excited that we can kind of turn the page, quit talking about turnover and talk about retention. I think that that’s where it’s at. And it’s not meant to make it sound easy. I don’t think it’s easy at all. I think it’s really, really hard. But I think it’s doable. And I think the team is excited that we have a new focus on employee engagement and retention.

This will help with staffing: You’ve had a great increase in your vaccination rate from the time you took over. Take me through your process there and how you have been successful.

Yeah. There was a point in time, when I first joined the team back in June of last year, where we were probably at a 40% to 50% vaccination rate. It was really low — and that’s a little scary. 

We spent a lot of time educating at the branch director level so that people could really understand what the big questions around the vaccine were. There’s a lot of unknowns and a lot of things people were scared of, like whether the vaccine was going to affect their fertility. 

So we reached out to some experts and some of the academic institutions and said, “Hey, can you help us with education?” I think the education was the core of why people were struggling, so that helped.

Now you guys have a rate in the mid-90s, percentage wise? 

Yup. We’re in the mid-90s for compliance rate, which is a combination of vaccinations and exemptions. 

Are you worried at all about that 5% or so? Are you just hoping those workers get on board as time goes on?

I think they’ll get on board. I look at all the progress we’ve made over the last even couple of months, and I feel really good about it and think the last group will get on.

We have found that we can underestimate the the importance of the local managers. You find a lot of staff following the lead of their local manager and, I think, as we’ve made progress there, that’s helped penetrate.

You also talked on the recent earnings call about having a robust pipeline for M&A. During this transition period, how does that work in terms of who is handling what?

That has not changed. We still have the discussions with the Birmingham office as we’re looking at any potential acquisitions. Eventually, we’ll obviously be completely on our own; it’ll be our team making those decisions. But today, it’s still a collective decision.

What has piqued your interest this week at Home Care 100?

I think if anything this week has reinforced the topics that I had front of mind in the first place – things like SNF-at-home and hospital-at-home models, as well as some of the challenges with Medicare Advantage plans, and how we need to make sure that our industry is negotiating for the value that we’re worth with those plans.

It’s just been good to just to see that the things that I feel are top of my mind are really actually at the top of the industry’s mind.

What would you say are your three top priorities for you right now as an organization?

Continued focus on recruitment and retention. That’s huge, because obviously, our growth is relying on that.

Then the effort that we’re going to need to put in with the rebranding, so that we can make sure that we don’t miss a step when it comes having our new identity out there.

And then finally, really continuing our focus on growth – through organic growth, de novos and acquisitions.

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