By bringing a fresh perspective, new owners of CareFinders Total Care hope to transform care at home
In the healthcare ecosystem, home care has long been viewed as a stepchild of the healthcare industry. As patients are neither acute nor in need of urgent medical care, home care all too often gets dropped into a category of secondary importance.
“But tell that to a family whose elderly loved one has just returned from the hospital or rehab after a serious illness, a fall, or surgery, or because of cognitive issues can longer stay safely at home,” said Linda Mintz, co-chairman of Carefinders Total Care, a home care agency with locations throughout northern New Jersey. “Home care should be viewed as a critically important component at the frontline of the health care continuum. It’s what allows people to stay at home longer and what reduces expensive hospital readmissions.”
Mintz and her business partner, Sanford Hausner, purchased Carefinders last May. One of the largest home care agencies in New Jersey, Carefinders currently employs over 2,000 home health aides and serves the needs of some 3,000 patients through its offices in South Orange (which opened last month), Hackensack, West New York, Elizabeth, and Passaic. In 2015, Mintz and Hausner have their sights on expanding through organic growth and acquisition.
“We believe home care can be so much more,” said Hausner. “By working with our HMO partners and others to deliver a comprehensive total care approach, our goal is to deliver better quality care, more efficiently and less wastefully, avoid costly hospital readmissions, improve outcomes and being greater comfort to patients and their families.”
Mintz and Hausner have either already made innovative moves or have plans on the drawing board that are intended to accomplish this. Here are some examples:
Expand the use of technology, which ranges from the use of electronic health records (well-established in the hospital industry, but virtually unheard of in home care), to the use of smart phones by aides and laptops by nurses in order to update patients’ electronic health records in real time.
Offer specialized training for home health aides in areas like Alzheimer’s care, diabetes and autism. “Diabetes is at epidemic proportions – there are almost one million people in New Jersey with diabetes – and the high degree of non-compliance compromises care and raises health care costs,” said Mintz. “Think how much money could be saved if home care could help even a small percentage of diabetics comply with their meds and diet.”
Foster strategic partnerships with payers and other health care providers to create an efficient total care offering. This includes the exploration of new services (ranging from nutrition and wellness to medication management).
Implement a proprietary computerized system to match home health aides and patients based on language, cultural background, interests and temperament. This is particularly important, said Hausner, as the home care agency caters to many ethnicities, including Hispanic, Korean, Russian and Arabic patients. “We know our patients have a more satisfactory relationship with an aide they feel they can really connect with,” he said.
A New Look at Home Care
Home care is widely viewed by government and HMOs as the most affordable type of care provided to an aging population – far more so than institutional care – where people live longer, but in an increasingly fragile state both physically and cognitively. Studies show that it is also a preferred model of care, as nine of every 10 people say they want to remain in their homes as long as possible.
Neither Mintz nor Hausner, who met nearly 30 years ago as attorneys at the white shoe law firm Weil Gotshal & Manges, have any prior professional experience in the health care industry. Mintz was a mergers & acquisitions attorney running a business advisory firm, and Hausner a specialist in corporate and securities law, when they decided to purchase the 20-year-old home care agency. Both had personally lived through serious health scares that drove home to them the importance of a new and better type of home care that would provide a “total care” experience and an enhanced quality of life.
One of the first things the new owners did after the purchase was to become more closely acquainted with the job of the caregiver. This meant, said Hausner, “learning to walk in their shoes.” As a means to this, he completed and passed the intensive 76-hour training program and is now a certified home health aide.
“A priority is to elevate the value of the services offered by the home health aide, who has long been viewed as a non-essential provider in the chain of care,” said Mintz. “This is unfortunate because the aide is truly the primary level of care for the elderly patient. After all, it is the aide who is present in the most important, safest, and most comfortable place for patients – in their homes, day in and day out.”
The industry is beginning to take notice of the new owners.
“The biggest difference is that Linda and Sandy see things with fresh eyes,” said Dennis Marco, managing director of the lobbying firm Hamilton Public Affairs, which represents the Home Care Council of New Jersey and is closely involved in legislative matters concerning the industry. “They came in without any baggage and are not caught up with what’s been done in the past. This has allowed them to think out of the box and foster a real paradigm change.”
Carefinders Total Care is a 20-year-old multi-service home care agency that serves more than 3,000 patients living in Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Passaic and Union counties. As a CAHC (Commission on Accreditation for Home Care) accredited agency, it is held to the highest quality standards for patient care and safety. All of its Certified Home Health Aides, supervised by nurses, are certified by the NJ Board of Nursing and have been carefully screened including professional reference, health and criminal background checks. For more information contact www.carefinders.org.