Empath Health Expands Hospice Services in Florida

Empath Health recently announced that its affiliate organization Empath Hospice has received a green light to begin offering services across three counties in central Florida, expanding the company’s presence in that market.

The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) granted the provider initial certificate of need approval to begin delivering hospice care services in Florida throughout the Hardee, Highlands and Polk counties.

The hospice market has been hot in the Sunshine State in recent years. The AHCA initially planned to issue four certificates of need during 2021 but nearly doubled that number, paving the way for further growth. The state issued certificates for program expansion in seven counties last year. Certificate of need rules are intended to discourage unnecessary duplication of services in a geographic area.


“It is the goal of Empath Health to continually look for ways to provide our life-changing care to more people who need it,” said Jonathan Fleece, president of Empath Health. “Delivering care in Hardee, Highlands and Polk counties allows us to touch more lives and offer residents and their families expanded access to hospice services.”

Empath currently operates Suncoast Hospice and Tidewell Hospice, both in Florida. Empath Health merged with Stratum Health System in 2020 with the intention to offer a full continuum of home- and community-based care.

In 2018 Florida ranked third highest nationwide for hospice utilization at a rate of 57.9% among Medicare decedents, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. Only Utah and Arizona saw higher rates at 59.4% and 59.2%, respectively. 


Demand for hospice in Florida is anticipated to swell as the aging population grows. The U.S. Census Bureau projected that seniors 60 and older will represent 32.5% of the state’s overall population by 2030, a rise from nearly a quarter currently in the 65 and older age group.

“We are so honored to have the opportunity to serve the residents and their families with the expert, compassionate care we’ve been providing across our region,” said Empath Health CEO Rafael Sciullo.

Part of the services that Empath Hospice will provide includes a mobile access care unit. The Empath Mobile Access to Care unit expands the provider’s outreach activities in underserved rural and low-income areas via a partnership with the Heartland Rural Health Network aimed at helping community health workers reach patients with chronic, advanced or terminal illness.

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