Jennifer Sheets won’t ever exit the home-based care space. But for now, she’s taking a step back, and doing so with many thoughts on the past, the present and the future.
She became the president of Interim HealthCare in January of 2019, and Home Health Care News caught up with her shortly thereafter to discuss the journey that took her from being an ICU nurse to a health care CEO.
In early July, Sheets stepped down from the CEO role.
“I have spent the last 25 years of my life dedicated to ensuring that patients and families across the globe have access to high quality care that they need and deserve, and I think that’s where I’ll continue to be.” Sheets told HHCN earlier this month. “I’ve decided to just partially step back for a period of time. I have traveled, on average, three weeks out of every single month for the last 10 years. Right now, I need to take some time to focus on my family and their needs.”
The travel was especially tough given Sheets’ role as the primary caregiver for her mother.
She was at the helm of Interim HealthCare during a time where it solidified itself as one of the largest home health providers in the country. The Sunrise, Florida-based company – a part of Caring Brands International, which Sheets also was the CEO of – also provides personal care, hospice care, palliative care, pediatric care and staffing services. Through its over 330 U.S. locations, it cares for about 200,000 individuals per year.
Paul Mastrapa, the former CEO of the home care company Help at Home, has stepped in as the CEO of Interim. Mastrapa had already been a member of Interim’s board.
For the time being, Sheets will be dedicating much of her time to board work. She is the head of the board at the Research Institute for Home Care (RIHC) and a part of the board at the National Association for Home Care & Hospice, where she also serves as the co-chair of the new Medicaid council.
She’s open to similar board roles in the near-term future.
“I’ve had several people reach out, which is good, and am certainly open to serving anywhere where I can add value in the health care arena,” Sheets said.
In addition to Interim, Caring Brands International also includes the U.K.-based Bluebird Care and the Australia-based Just Better Care. She was in charge of all of that, in addition to hundreds of franchisees operating semi-independently.
Sheets is proud of the impact that her company was able to make globally, as it brought more care to the home in England, Ireland and Australia.
But, looking back, she’s also proud of how far home-based care and Interim have come.
“I think I’m most proud of the place that we have grown to in the industry,” Sheets said. “And, quite frankly, getting Caring Brands at a table with all the rest of the industry leaders, to where it should have been – that’s probably what I’m most proud of.”
For now, more than anything, Sheets is on a break from roles in daily leadership. It’s likely that she’ll be back at the top of a company sometime in the future, however.
“I will always be involved in this industry, this has been my passion for my entire career,” she said. “I’ll be involved with advocating, consulting and board roles for now. But, I have a feeling I’ll I’ll be around for a long time.”
Home-based care’s future
Sheets has a unique perspective on the U.S. health care system’s problems.
She started her career as a bedside nurse, but she’s also held executive roles in both acute and post-acute care settings. Even within home-based care, she led a company in Interim that had a significant census in both home health care and home care.
With that in mind, Sheets still sees a significant market need for end-to-end, home-based care continuums.
“I think that the biggest opportunity that we have right now in the health care industry is to focus on unmet health care needs with integrated care connected to community and support resources,” she said. “So, wherever you’re starting in the industry, it doesn’t matter which piece your focus is, but more about how you are coordinating care and how you are driving that full continuum.”
That would mean not just focusing on one payer source, or one home-based care service. Doing so will enable providers to grow sustainably in a value-based context, and will ultimately lead to better, less interrupted care for patients.
With that in mind, in home health care specifically, Sheets believes that providers are actually beginning to take a different approach toward managed care plans and value-based care overall.
“We’re not completely focusing on just a conversation about bringing the rates up anymore,” Sheets said. “It’s more about figuring out how we both get the rates that we need, but also demonstrate the value and the cost savings that [these plans] are looking for.”
Sheets’ mother recently said to her – after being discharged from the hospital – “I wouldn’t have known what to do if it wasn’t for you.”
Even after stepping away from Interim, Sheets’ ultimate goal is for no patient to leave the hospital facing confusion, or an inability to receive seamless home-based care.