Virginia-based Blue Ridge Hospice is building a foundation for a larger future with geographic expansion, a growing range of services and a rebrand in the works.
In addition to bringing its core hospice business to a broader market, Blue Ridge is working to position itself for success in a value-based payment environment, according to CEO Cheryl Hamilton Fried.
The organization — which serves roughly 300 patients daily across a 2,200-square-mile region that includes urban, suburban and rural communities — has made inroads into the palliative care and PACE arenas, with no plans of slowing down.
“We believe very strongly that hospice — through outside pressures, whether that be reimbursement, payers, value-based care or managed care providers — we believe all of those are already redefining end-of-life care in this country. We want to be in front of that not left behind,” Hamilton Fried told Hospice News. “So we’re expanding our idea of end-of-life care through the care of chronic- and advanced-illness patients.”
For Blue Ridge, this means building longitudinal relationships with patients upstream of a six-month terminal prognosis by offering a larger continuum of services, according to Hamilton Fried. It launched its palliative care program in 2022 and is in the process of securing a PACE license.
The organization is constructing a 16,500-square-foot PACE facility and anticipates starting to accept patients in 2024.
Meanwhile, its palliative care program has thrived. The program was initially rolled out to facility-based patients but has since expanded into the home setting. It now has an average daily census of 75 and a 90% conversion rate to its hospice program.
“We are also looking at other models as we affiliate with other organizations that also have palliative programs,” Hamilton Fried explained. “We are looking at clinic-based care, as well as involving other disciplines in the palliative care team to make sure that we have a very well-rounded program. We’re very open to providing acute-care palliative services.”
These initiatives, and others on the way, could potentially allow the organization to stay with patients for a number of years prior to the end of life.
“It falls under our virtue of being a convener of care and a mid-Atlantic provider and thinking bigger and broader than what we have over the last 40 years as an organization,” Hamilton Fried said.
Geographically, Blue Ridge recently moved into Loudoun County, Virginia, with a de novo. Further geographic expansion is in the works, including at least one affiliation, she said.
The organization will soon adopt new branding to reflect this broader approach, though it would be “premature” to disclose further details, Hamilton Fried indicated.
“That brand is very much going to be future-focused, focused on the notion of what we call the ‘Caring for Life’ strategy,” Jason Parsons, chief strategy officer for Blue Ridge, told Hospice News. “This is really a 360-degree look at what aging means and the communities we serve, and how we can contribute to that conversation. Where others may look at coming changes with trepidation, we look to it with great opportunity.”