Rising Admissions Fuels Growth at VITAS Healthcare

VITAS Healthcare has seen substantial growth in same-store admissions during the third quarter of the year, boosting its revenues, according to financial results posted by the hospice provider’s parent company, Chemed Corp. (NYSE: CHE).

VITAS admissions rose 4.4% from Q3 2018’s numbers to 17,131 patients. This is slightly stronger than the company’s second-quarter 2019 admissions growth of 3.8%. The hospice provider’s average daily census climbed 6.3% during the third quarter.

“Collectively across the board, we saw a nice lift-up across the country in all regions. It is good sequential growth. We still believe there is room for improvement, and that’s consistent inside of our guidance,” VITAS CEO Nick Westfall said. “The phones are ringing; patients are being referred to us; we’re differentiating ourselves in the marketplace by being a good partner to referral sources and patients and families. So we have an expectation of a continued trend hopefully around this level.”

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Referrals to VITAS hospice services increased among all four sectors that the company works with for referrals. Admissions from hospitals rose 5.2% in the second quarter, for instance. Hospitals represent nearly half of referrals to VITAS.

The company saw modest referral increases of less than 2% from home care providers and assisted living facilities. The largest rate of admissions growth came from nursing homes, which expanded by 8.1%.

Westfall cited efforts to build relationships with referral partners that are focused on those organizations’ individual needs as a major contributor to the company’s admissions growth.

“What we really look to do is evaluate the referring entities based upon what the value proposition that they are looking for. So if it’s a hospital system compared to a specialty physician, some of their needs, wants and appetite for involvement with that patient flow are different,” Westfall said. “So what we’re really just trying to do — and be really prescriptive on — is translate the conversation from ‘why hospice?’ to ‘why VITAS?” still protecting patient choice and everything else. And we’re doing a good job at that in the various markets and our partners and the larger partners. That seems to really resonate with them.”

VITAS’ net revenue in the third quarter reached $322 million, up 6.6% from the prior-year period. In additional to rising admissions, revenues also got a jump start from a geographically weighted average Medicare reimbursement rate increase of approximately 0.5%, a 6.3% increase in days-of-care, and a reduction in the Medicare Cap billing limitation that increased revenues 0.2%, Chemed reported.

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