The board of directors of Maryland-based Hospice of the Chesapeake has selected Michael Brady as the organization’s president and CEO. Brady previously served as the organization’s chief financial officer.
Brady has been interim CEO for the hospice since the departure of his predecessor Ben Marcantonio, who stepped down to take over as chief operating officer of the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization. Brady joined Chesapeake in 2018 as CFO after nearly two decades with the National Lutheran Communities and Services in Rockville, Md., a nonprofit with a $75 million annual operating budget.
Hospice of the Chesapeake served more than 5,300 patients last year, a record census for the organization. They also recently completed the acquisition of neighboring Hospice of Charles County.
Brady spoke with Hospice News about Chesapeake’s plans for continued growth in 2021, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the inclusion of hospice in value-based payment systems.
You’re coming into this new leadership role during a global pandemic. What impact has COVID-19 had on your business and your operations?
We’ve actually fared pretty well, given all the circumstances. In the beginning it was where do we find [personal protective equipment]? We had never needed the amount that we did at that point. We had to ask how we keep the business running as we were shifting our workspace. From a technology standpoint, we had to upgrade, get into telemedicine, and do more Zoom calls and more team calls on Microsoft. Once we made that pivot, it really ran pretty smooth.
The challenges on the clinical side have varied. We had to consider how some of our nurses will access patients in some of the skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities. Many of them said that absolutely no one could come, so we had to figure out how to take care of those patients. It was new for families, because nobody really knew how to deal with a pandemic, and they were nervous about it. That became a challenge.
But after we got through the first few months, we really got into a rhythm where everybody had learned how to live in a pandemic, knew what they were supposed to be doing, and was taking the proper precautions.
Have you been able to procure a vaccine for your staff? How’s that process going in your area?
In the beginning, we had not been able to procure them for our staff. We do have some partner hospitals where we were able to get some of our staff vaccinated. The rollout of vaccine across the state has been varied, and the reason is because it’s been left up to each county. Counties like Prince George’s County are going to roll it out much differently than others. As of last week, we are starting to procure some for ourselves. Most staff at this point have at least started to get through the process.
Aside from the pandemic, what do you see as your most important priorities as you take the helm of this organization?
I want to see us continue to continue to deliver the highest quality care that we can. We reach probably 60% to 70% of the market here within Anne Arundel County, but there are huge growth opportunities within Prince George’s County where the care is often disjointed. We want to be able to reach more patients and families that need us. I see that as my charter. It’s not only in hospice care, but even further upstream with supportive care and palliative care.
What would you say are the most important lessons you learned through your experience in finance that informs your approach to leadership at Chesapeake?
Part of what I was able to bring to Hospice of the Chesapeake was to develop a financial platform so that we were balanced, meaning we had a solid foundation so that as we expand we continue to deliver quality care. I never want finances to hold us back. I never want to look at an area that needs help and have to say we’d love to do that but can’t because we don’t have the financing. We have that good, strong financial base right now.
Chesapeake acquired Hospice of Charles County last October. What are your strategies for further growth in the current year? Do you foresee more acquisitions?
Charles County was a very small operation. They did not have a lot of financial stability, and they didn’t have a lot of operational stability. Our first step is to really step in and provide that solid foundation.
A second priority is to develop strong relationships with referral partners in that area. We have a good relationship with Charles Regional Medical Center. We’ve been able to establish relationships with some of the larger skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities.
I would like to [pursue more acquisitions], but those opportunities don’t come up very often. If an organization in a contiguous county that reached out and said they needed a little help, then, I could see us pursuing that. Charles County with a little bit unique in that some of their leadership was leaving.
If the opportunity [or an acquisition] presents itself, I would say yes. But there are other ways to also do that, whether that’s through working together with hospices that are already within Maryland and trying to find some efficiencies or alignment in how we operate.
Hospices have been preparing for the last couple of years for value-based payment programs and alternative payment models that are now coming to fruition in 2021. What opportunities do you see within those models for your organization?
It’s going to require us to be a little bit nimble in terms of how we are delivering care. We have to take into account how we are reaching these payment models to be sure that they are appropriate for us.
WIth managed care contracts through Medicare we may need to consider partnering with some of the other hospices to negotiate a better rate. So that is going to impact us, but I don’t know how much of that impact will occur this year. People are still just trying to get through COVID first, I don’t think many people have their eye on that ball yet. But it will be coming.