Why Lifespark, Elara Caring Are Investing In ‘Wellness’ Strategies

Home-based companies are focusing on patient “wellness” more than they ever have.

Wellness seems like it would be an obvious focus for health care services companies in general. But the fact of the matter is that it hasn’t always been in post-acute and long-term care settings.

That’s changing now. While it’s right for the patient, a focus on wellness can also drive revenue and boost outcomes in an increasingly value-based system.


Generally, providers focused on wellness address factors such as physical activity, nutrition and mental well-being to ensure that their patients are thriving, and not just surviving.

Lifespark and Elara Caring are two examples of home-based care companies going big on wellness.

“We keep paying for acute reactive sick care,” Lifespark CEO Joel Theisen told Home Health Care News. “We don’t have a health care system. We have a sick care system. You’ve heard people say that in the past and I’ve been saying it for 10 years. At a macro level, Lifespark is not pivoting at all. We’re here to help seniors age magnificently and we’re here to help them longitudinally and holistically for the rest of their lives.”


Developing a wellness strategy has supported both providers’ patients beyond their basic health needs.

Lifespark is an innovative senior care provider with both in-home care and senior living operations. Theisen founded the company in 2004 with the goal of redefining the aging experience for seniors by focusing more on whole-person and longitudinal care.

The company’s services lines include home care, hospice and primary care.

As recently as 2021, partners like UCare — an independent and nonprofit health plan with over 600,000 members — have made strategic investments in Lifespark because of the provider’s approach wellness in seniors.

“We’re here to be a trusted adviser, be a single point of contact, have geriatric expertise and build out real geriatric services that don’t exist,” Theisen said. “We do that and want to continue to do that, with really great data and analytics and to show the market that it absolutely works. That it can be counted on and scaled.”

As a longtime nurse and someone who has been in the industry for 30 years, Theisen believes there is no other way to provide longitudinal and holistic care other than through global risk.

Providers who bet on themselves and the outcomes they can deliver — hopefully at lower costs — stand to benefit from the shift to value-based care.

“What CMMI did after 2010 with the Affordable Care Act was they said we have to get away from fee for service because it sucks,” Theisen said. “It’s all about acute reactive care. The incentive was that the more services you provide to people, the more money you make. The sicker they are, the more money you make. That was a reward. When you get rewarded for bad behavior, which is keeping people sick, you’re going to get more of it.”

From a business perspective, taking on risk and ushering in value-based care models has allowed Lifespark and other providers the ability to confidently negotiate with payers and other partners.

“I don’t let these charlatans or anybody else get in the way of me going right to the money,” Theisen said. “I’ll go full risk, upside-downside, so I love it. Because now if I don’t perform, I don’t get paid. And I’m good with that, because if I’m not creating value for those that trust me to serve them with quality, with cost reduction and with an incredible experience, then I shouldn’t even exist.”

Wellness of the caregiving team

Providers have also started to invest in the overall wellness of their caregiving teams.

“We’re very mindful of the fact that our nurses’ happiness, engagement and wellness translates to our patients, and making sure that our patient care really stems from a really happy and engaged workforce,” Kristina Rainis, VP of total rewards at Elara Caring, told HHCN. “Any time we make improvements to our workflow or our benefit offerings, we ask ourselves from the lens of a caregiver, ‘What does this mean or how does this improve their day-to-day?’”

The Dallas-based Elara Caring is a home-based care provider with about 200 locations across 16 states.

For its own employees, Elara Caring has invested in virtual primary care options through Teladoc Health and added behavioral health visits to its benefits packages.

Those investments follow a similar path to the company’s overall mission of being a leader in a value-based care environment, CEO Scott Powers recently told HHCN.

“I think in order to take risk and really understand the value you’re producing, you have to have a certain level of sophistication in order to do that,” Powers said. “What I mean by that is you’ve got to be able to measure outcomes and you’ve got to be able to measure them by patient type, by disease state, by location. You have to mix in technology and virtual care into this. You have to think about care beyond just the local delivery of care, but how do you do it more holistically, and even in some cases, centralized case management.”

Communication also plays an important role in advocating for the overall wellness of a patient, member or caregiver.

Navigating health care options and benefits tends not to be a simple task.

“A lot of times an issue with benefits or a certain care model is not that they’re not there, but it’s that people don’t know about them,” Rainis said. “We have programs in place that provide team members with support in making healthy lifestyle choices, rewarding members for healthy choices and have been investing and focusing more on holistic wellness, whether that be mentally, financially or your overall well-being.”

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