by Tim Rowan, Editor and Publisher
Talks have been continuing for a number of years about what can best be described as concern over the image of the U.S. healthcare segment we call Healthcare at Home. Specifically, concern over how that segment is represented before Congress, regulatory agencies, and the press, and how to help the entire segment by improving its image.
The segment, of course, includes medical and non-medical in-home care, hospice, palliative care and homemaker services across the full spectrum of public and private payers.
These conversations of which I speak are not official talks. They are not high-level summits at publicized seminars — though they often take place during state and national conferences — nor are they heard from stages over microphones. No, these are talks held in hotel lobbies and restaurants, attended by small groups of industry leaders, individuals with names you would recognize, CEOs and corporate board members of some of the largest and most influential Healthcare at Home providers in the nation, and, occasionally, a reporter.
There was one exception. The same concerns that were being shared in after-hours meetings burst out in a public form just once in this writer’s experience. The occasion was the Homecare 100 closing general session, February 2016, in Austin, Texas. It was an open discussion, guided by a moderator, who clearly had no idea what was coming.
In the midst of a familiar group conversation about what our industry needs and where it is going, with no prompting from the moderator, the discussion took an unexpected turn. One by one, and with no apparent pre-planning, individuals stood and asked what everyone wanted to do about “the sad state of our representation in front of Congress and MedPAC and CMS.” The first to say it out loud was buoyed by nods and murmurs and several other supportive comments from peers that “something needs to be done.”
Those industry leaders who had met at a restaurant table just the night before caught each other's eyes across the crowded room as if to confirm that their surprise was mutual. None of those leaders were the ones standing up and complaining. Every comment came from someone who had never said it out loud before. C-level executives from both large provider agencies and their supporting technology vendors are the only ones invited to Homecare 100 and they were the ones who changed the direction of that 2016 conversation.
Fast-forward one year. Essentially the same people are assembled in Florida for Homecare 100 2017. VNAA President and CEO Tracey Moorhead addresses the room, from the stage this time, about findings from research she had conducted since last year’s meeting. “I identified 14 separate organizations that speak to Congress and CMS on behalf of Healthcare at Home,” she said. “It is no wonder Representatives and Senators from both sides of the aisle ask us – and they do – why we cannot speak to them with one unified voice.” The solution she hinted at that day is the one she formally announced on another stage 3,000 miles away this Wednesday afternoon.
To have an impact, to ever hope to lobby Congress and MedPAC and dialog with CMS as one unified industry voice, ElevatingHOME needs to attract members. Three clues say that it will.
First is the collection of spontaneous comments at Homecare 100 2016, described above, combined with the resounding applause following Ms. Moorhead's hints of a new association during Homecare 100 2017.
Second is the new board's commitment to transparency and a member-driven agenda. They underscored that commitment by inserting language about fiscal transparency and forbidding nepotism into their by-laws.
Third is the impressive list of charter board members and member organizations, most of which had canceled their memberships in the leading national association years ago, putting their resources behind two separate efforts, the Association for Home Health Quality and Innovation, with an educational mission, and the Partnership for Quality Home Health, an advocacy group.
Helping to launch ElevatingHOME are Bayada Home Health, Alacare, Trinity Health at Home, Sutter Care at Home, the VNA Health System of Shamokin, Pennsylvania, Fazzi Associates, and the Council of State Associations, which itself was formed over ten years ago out of dissatisfaction with the NAHC-controlled Forum of State Association Directors. Each of these organizations has lent an executive to the new board; Bob Fazzi will coordinate early strategic planning efforts.
The goal to unify the industry is lofty and will not be achieved in a year, maybe not in five. But it is possible. You will know if it is coming true if you see for-profit providers exercising the same option non-profit providers have always had, to wit, to join either NAHC or the VNAA or both. Many for-profit providers have already joined ElevatingHOME and certainly many more will, as soon as they see its value and compare it to the value of their current membership.
No one has ever expressed a single negative comment – at least not within this writer’s earshot – of the quality of the legal and clinical consultations NAHC provides to its members. On the contrary, what is usually heard is that access to these services is the only reason they maintain their membership, in spite of any negative opinions they may have.
While we admire the patient-centered, industry-promoting altruism of the new organization's board and CEO, and wish that all national associations mentioned transparency and nepotism in their by-lawns, we know that these next six months are critical. They will have to demonstrate not only altruism and transparency but the ability to replace the educational, advocacy, and consultative services to members that for-profit providers considering switching allegiance would be giving up.
Perhaps a miracle will happen and ElevatingHOME will work cooperatively with every other national association. The last thing a struggling industry needs is internal rivalry. As Tracey Moorhead said to me this week, "At the end of the day, are we not stronger together?"
©2017 by Rowan Consulting Associates, Inc., Colorado Springs, CO. All rights reserved. This article originally appeared in Tim Rowan's Home Care Technology Report. homecaretechreport.com One copy may be printed for personal use; further reproduction by permission only. firstname.lastname@example.org