New AccentCare CEO Laura Tortorella Set To Take On Evolving Home Health Landscape
Laura Tortorella had her first day as AccentCare CEO Monday. And, in just about a month, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will drop its final home health payment rule.
In the meantime, she will be learning as much as she can about a new industry. A health system veteran, she previously served as the COO of Steward Health Care.
“I think you’re always learning – every day is another learning opportunity,” Tortorella told Home Health Care News. “It’s been that way for me for my entire career. AccentCare has a wonderful team and a very high-performing team. I’ll have the opportunity to spend a lot of time listening to them on where they see opportunities, and partner with them on doing what’s right for the patients, our employees and the company going forward.”
Based in Dallas, AccentCare is one of the largest home health and hospice providers in the country. The company also provides personal home care, palliative care and other home-based care services. Its footprint includes 250 locations across 31 states and the District of Columbia, and it serves more than 200,000 individuals each year.
Tortorella takes over for Steve Rodgers, who served as CEO of AccentCare for over a decade, first taking over in July 2012.
It’s an interesting time to enter home health care, an industry that is rapidly evolving. Providers – especially the large ones, like AccentCare – are trying to shift toward value-based care, something Tortorella believes she can help with.
Home-based care’s popularity is rising, but payment is becoming more difficult. There are more Medicare Advantage (MA) beneficiaries than ever, and managed care companies tend to pay far less for home health services than traditional Medicare. At the same time, CMS is trying to slash fee-for-service rates.
Maintaining positive relationships with referral sources has also become tougher, as providers deal with staffing constraints that make it hard to take on patients being referred to them.
“Every decision we make should be with the patient’s best clinical interests in mind,” Tortorella said. “Having been on that side of the health care continuum for many years, [I know] that health systems really need and want to partner with very high-quality post-acute providers to help transition patients seamlessly, successfully and smoothly from the acute care walls into the post-acute setting.”
Tortorella held multiple other executive roles at Steward Health Care before working her way up to COO. Prior to her time there, she worked at Boston’s Children Hospital.
Now, making sure those health system partners are satisfied will be one of her key focuses over the first few months on the job.
“As it relates to AccentCare and its various partners out there, that’s going to be part of the many conversations that I will be having over the course of the next few months,” she said. “To really understand how we can continue to partner with them to put the patient first, and to drive those seamless transitions that drive really good clinical outcomes.”
That’s the approach Tortorella is taking from the outset: focusing on the controllable factors.
With the final payment rule looming, she believes its best for AccentCare to simply focus on strong clinical outcomes for its patients.
“[The final rule] is certainly something I’ve been been thinking about,” Tortorella said. “Having worked in health care for many years at this point, I know it’s constantly evolving. But I think what has always remained the same is that the patient is at the center. And in a value-based environment, clinical outcomes and high-quality clinical solutions are key in driving that patient experience. That’s certainly what we’ll be thinking through over the next few months.”
Ultimately, Tortorella believes AccentCare will be well set up for the future, so long as it continues to focus on the patient, and, in turn, value-based care and positive health system partnerships.
“I understand intimately the importance of value-based care, and how home care and hospice fit into that continuum,” she said. “The health care landscape is evolving. I think what’s very exciting for all home care and hospice providers is that the need and projected use of home care and hospice services continues to grow.”