Earlier this week, Bridges Health Services merged with Las Vegas-based home health and hospice companies Gentlecare Home Health and Renaissance Hospice and Los Angeles-based home health and hospice companies Supreme Healthcare Inc. and Supreme Hospice Inc.
Headquartered in Los Angeles, Bridges Health Services has been in standing for more than a decade with a national footprint in the home health and hospice spaces, primarily serving Medicare beneficiaries.
The outlook for hospice mergers and acquisitions in 2020 was projected to be strong at the start of the year. Although COVID-19 headwinds led to setbacks for many organizations looking to expand their hospice footprint, acquisition activity has been ticking upwards in the second and third quarters. With million dollar deals and increased non-traditional buyer interest, the hospice market is anticipated to continue going strong.
Hospice News recently sat down founder and CEO of Bridges Health Services, Carolyn Romero, to discuss the company’s strategic growth strategies and plans for the remainder of 2020 and into 2021. As a nurse with three decades of experience in the areas of home health, hospice, dialysis, nephrology, intensive care, long-term care and palliative care, she brings a unique and clinical expertise to the company and provides insight into Bridges’ patient care services.
Romero told Hospice News the merger is still in process with a goal of completing the initial phase by Nov. 1, including rebranding, to avoid any negative impacts or possible disruption of patient services. The shift in the delivery of the health care system out of facilities and into the home during the pandemic were large factors in the merger considerations. The financial details of the deal have not been disclosed. Bridges aims to announce all leadership and company organizational changes by Jan. 1, 2021, including a new chief medical officer.
How has your clinical experience as a nurse informed your approach to executive leadership?
I am a CEO, but I am a nurse first. I can definitely identify with the challenges of seeing patients in the community. More than anything, this merger allows me to have a wider reach to be able to help more people, more patients, more elderly. What I would like to see is what it really looks like out there, not just sitting on a CEO’s chair and making policies and attending meetings.
What I’m seeing is that there’s a gap, a misalignment and a lot of missed opportunities to give education to the community. Now that this merging is happening, we will be able to reach more patients to have a wider reach in the hospice industry.
Why was the time right to pursue this kind of merger with home health and hospice companies?
With the current market conditions and health care industry evolutions that came about in 2020, then throwing in the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s a huge shift in the landscape of health care delivery — specifically in hospice. In a time of slower economic growth, we decided that our merger and acquisition would be a way for us to adapt to the changes, grow and restructure nationally.
During the COVID pandemic, our elderly populations are the ones that are most vulnerable. We successfully navigated a lengthy list of challenges, including being shut out of long-term care facilities, nursing homes, assisted living communities, doctors, offices and hospitals. As we quickly adapted to this pandemic, we were able to service the increasing demand of the home health and hospice services in the era of COVID-19. The merging was successful in navigating those challenges and expanding our reach in these communities.
This merger allowed us to reach more patients and allowed us to hire more people and add much more needed jobs. The acquisition allowed us to reach highly-skilled services and address issues in the communities we serve such as the assisted living communities, nursing homes and hospitals. We will be able to address these issues in our wider scope. That’s why we thought of the merger.
What drew Bridges’ attention to these particular companies?
We used the online quality of care reporting that the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) created as specific metrics to measure the quality of care as first and foremost to see what their current standings were. We also measured staff satisfaction and turnover, and patient and family experiences feedback. It was big for us to use these specific metrics to come up with the right companies and offer to merge with them.
We determined that these companies share our mission, vision and values, and that they would be a great addition to our national team. In addition, as we expand and grow, we are looking for home health and hospice companies that have a deep reach into the communities they serve. We are expanding, developing and nurturing relationships into the communities we support.
What value do these mergers bring to Bridges Health Services?
Because we aim to improve the provision of health care services such as hospice in the areas we serve, we have strategically and purposefully grown our relationship with our partners, as we did with this merger and acquisition, as well as our growth that has come from it. Financially as we spend, we are able to continue to provide more services to the communities that we serve, to hire more staff, and to just continue to do what we do.
With common missions and visions, the way that we chose the companies that we are going to merge and acquire is through specific metrics. At the end of the day, we would like to be a company that prioritizes patients first and the employees, and to have a company that’s known for having the best culture.
What are some of the other ventures in the works for Bridges as you continue to expand?
We are in the process of developing an automated intelligence system, or AI, with a tech team. Our partnership and our brainstorming brought together has led us to make processes more efficient, and that’s what the tech side is of what we are now in the process of developing and patenting it. It’s almost done, and we are going to release it soon. It’s exciting times for our company.
We also offer services through Bridges Crisis Management to complement what we offer in home health and hospice. They have an advanced technology specific to the care of patients during crises, such as the flu and the pandemic. It’s a perfect combination, a perfect incorporation of two companies both under Bridges, but separate entities with separate components. They provide a high-tech way of monitoring caregivers, health care professionals, professionals in assisted living, nursing homes and hospitals on infection control, compliance and making sure that staff are not exposed where they work and therefore limiting and controlling the infection. Combining both services of both companies gets the best patient outcome, which is my main concern all the time.