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KishHealth launches home care program

DeKALB – Everything and nothing changed Jan. 1 for Lisa Hardcastle.

When the new year came, Hardcastle was still the director of a home care division, but it was no longer for the DeKalb County Health Department. Instead, Hardcastle assumed the same position under the KishHealth System banner, completing a transfer of the program that had been discussed for months.

Some of the 16 home care employees laid off by the county, including Hardcastle, were hired by KishHealth System to create a seamless transition for the roughly 70 home care patients in the program. Hardcastle said it has been an exciting process moving from an agency with fewer than 100 employees to an organization with more than 1,500 employees and immense resources.

The potential for growth is starting to be realized, she said, with plans to expand to communities surrounding DeKalb and Sandwich. Hardcastle said there also are opportunities to integrate other hospital resources such as dietitians in the home care experience.

“Nursing is nursing is nursing no matter where you go and those core services are going to stay the same,” she said. “But there are a lot more resources here at the hospital and the challenge now is learning to navigate that.”

Home care services provide skilled nursing, home health aides, physical, occupational and speech therapy, and medical social workers to those with chronic illnesses or who are recovering from surgery.

The county health department decided to end the home care program, which it had operated since 1966, to help reduce its deficit.

The program served 772 people in 2011 with county staff making 13,162 visits. It generated $1.9 million in fee revenue but ran a deficit. By shedding the program, the health department is expected to reduce its estimated deficit of $340,500 to about $56,500 in 2013.

Cost drivers such as cuts to Medicare compensation and changes to health care laws that hurt the county program are more easily absorbed by larger organizations, said Pam Duffy, president of KishHealth System’s home care division.

She said there has already been resource shifting to handle the cost of adding the program.

“We just have more resources,” she said. “It’s a lot easier on us than a smaller facility.”

KishHealth System’s addition of the home care service also provides an opportunity for Kishwaukee Community Hospital and Valley West Community Hospital to reduce hospital admissions, which saves the patients and agency money, Hardcastle said.

Hardcastle, who also serves as president of the Illinois Home Care and Hospice Council, said a home visit is about $150 a day compared to the more than $1,000 a day for hospital and nursing home stays.

“There is such a push with health care reform ... to decrease hospital admissions,” she said. “If we can prevent patients from going to the hospital that’s great. Home is where patients want to be.”

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