Why Amedisys And Its Next CEO Chose Each Other

Amedisys Inc. (Nasdaq: AMED) Chairman and CEO Paul Kusserow hit it off right away with Richard Ashworth, the man who will be taking over the CEO role from him in April.

That was – at least in part – a reason why Amedisys was able to deliver on what Kusserow called a surprisingly “quick” hiring turnaround. The company began looking for a new CEO in November. 

“I’ve been wanting to get back into direct patient care for some time,” Ashworth told Home Health Care News on Tuesday. “My heart was pulling me that way. As a pharmacist, I spent my career helping patients and communities all across America, and I really enjoyed the health and wellness space. … lt was almost like a calling to come back.”


The other reasons Ashworth was picked were based on experience.

As a former president within Walgreens Boots Alliance (Nasdaq: WBA), Ashworth had experience overseeing close to 300,000 employees and thousands of business sites. As CEO of Amedisys, the challenge will be similar, though on a lesser scale – there are about 20,000 Amedisys employees and 532 care centers to look after.

His most recent experience was in the CEO role at Tivity Health, where his company was directly selling services to Medicare Advantage (MA) plans. Knowing how to work those partnerships with payers was another vital part of landing the top job at Amedisys.


But really, it all started with Kusserow hearing of Ashworth’s work in the field during his time at Walgreens. Ashworth prided himself on spending a lot time in the field, getting to know the workers, business sites, challenges and opportunities on the ground level.

That resonated deeply with Kusserow.

“I came to this industry knowing nothing about this industry,” Kusserow told HHCN, also on Tuesday. “I learned and built the company to what it is today by learning from the field. When I first started, I went out and I talked to our caregivers, I talked to our care centers. I talked to our patients, I talked to our referral sources. I talked to the people who wouldn’t refer to us. That’s how we built our strategy. If we give the market what it wants, then we get rewarded disproportionately. And that’s what Richard does. He’s at the point of care. He understands what goes on in these places where care is provided and where the money comes in. I think that’s essential in our business.”

Amedisys provides care through its 20,000 employees and 532 care sites across 37 states and the District of Columbia.

Kusserow is the current CEO and chairman of the company. He originally retired from the CEO role in April of last year – staying on as chairman – but then returned in November of last year when Amedisys’ original replacement for him was terminated.

Now that his next successor has been named, he will again step aside from his long-held role on April 10, when Ashworth will officially take over.

“I’m very happy we found the right person,” Kusserow said. “I’m very sad, I guess I would say, to be leaving such a wonderful company and to be leaving work that I found incredibly meaningful. It was a superlative experience. I’m very thankful for the company for indulging me and for teaching me. I learned a lot about how to take care of very vulnerable people. And I learned a lot about myself in that process. It was a real privilege to be able to lead a company that does that sort of work. It’s very rare, and I feel that I got very lucky to be able to do it.”

How the match was made

What brought Amedisys closer to Ashworth was his experience in a decentralized health care environment, his experience with payer relationships and his willingness to roll up his sleeves and work out things in the field.

Three things, on the other hand, brought Ashworth to Amedisys.

The first was the company being “differentiated in quality,” he said.

“That is not something that happens by accident,” Ashworth said. “It requires a significant amount of foundational, day-after-day work in the trenches being done. That told me that there was a character, a constitution to this organization, one where the foundation would be strong and one we could grow from.”

The other attraction was more tangible, and that was Amedisys’ subsidiary Contessa Health. A high-acuity enabler in the home, Contessa Health has become a larger part of Amedisys’ strategy as time has gone on.

Kusserow has repeatedly explained how important Contessa is to the company over the past few months, despite it not being a money maker for Amedisys just yet.

“The second thing was actually Contessa, because I’m a big believer in this model,” Ashworth said. “I’m a big believer that we should maximize more out of institutions, and in the home [instead]. I think it’s better for families. I think it’s better for patients. I think it’s better for payers. I think it’s green checks all around. And Contessa is starting to push the envelope on what can be done in the home. From an Amedisys’ standpoint, at some point, we can kind of take anything and everything that can be done in the home and be the primary contact for that for other providers and payers.” 

The last thing that piqued Ashworth’s interest was the room for growth.

Home health care is still a fragmented market in the U.S. Home-based care is becoming more popular. And, to top it off, Amedisys is one of the only remaining large and independent providers in the space.

Before delivering on that growth, however, Ashworth admits he’s got a lot of learning to do.

“I am very curious, and I’m a fast learner,” he said. “I’m going to jump right in and try to understand those drivers, so we can do the art and the science of making this the best place to work, with the best tools, which will then translate into growth.”

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