The Future Leaders Awards program is brought to you in partnership with Homecare Homebase. The program is designed to recognize up-and-coming industry members who are shaping the next decade of home health, hospice care, senior housing, skilled nursing, and behavioral health. To see this year’s Future Leaders, visit https://futureleaders.agingmedia.com/.
Anthony Spano, director of client development for Netsmart, has been named a 2023 Future Leader by Hospice News.
To become a Future Leader, an individual is nominated by their peers. The candidate must be a high-performing employee who is 40-years-old or younger, a passionate worker who knows how to put vision into action, and an advocate for seniors and the committed professionals who ensure their well-being.
Spano sat down with Hospice News to talk about his career trajectory and the ways the industry is evolving.
What led you to the hospice and palliative care field?
As I was preparing to begin my career, the first time that I sat in my health informatics graduate class and saw an overview of the U.S. health care system, I knew I wanted to dedicate my career to moving the needle within it.
I want my parents’ care to be affordable. I want my care to have higher value and be more affordable than theirs. And if I ever have kids, I want theirs to be better than mine and specific to hospice and palliative care. I think it’s one of the most underutilized services, especially in palliative care.
These are systems of delivery of health care that, at some point in our lives, we will all need, and the lack of education around it that exists makes me see it as an opportunity to really do both. We can reach that top-level goal in a specific area of health care that has huge potential to meet that, and it’s highly underutilized today.
When you look back at the start of your career, what would you say is your biggest lesson learned?
I think that the incredibly important role that hospice plays in sight of, not only the economic side, but just the social side of families and caregivers.
I will say that that impact has become new to me because I think there are times in my life where hospice care of family members would have been great, and for whatever reason, those parts of my family didn’t know it was available or didn’t know how to get to it or didn’t get to it time.
The impact and the good that it does for the families and the life experiences of those that we love is something that was new to me on the emotional side and learning how impactful that is and helpful that is to those dealing with end of life for their family.
If you could change one thing with an eye towards the future of hospice or palliative care, what would you say that would be?
The standardization and appropriate reimbursement for palliative care services is going to be a huge thing. If we changed that, it would massively impact the industry overnight. It would start to prepare us for the difficult conversation that can be around hospice and palliative care.
It’s time to start to understand the “why” behind hospice care before someone’s thoughts have reached a point where it’s a rush to get them on hospice. It also allows them to manage, not just the last six months, but the last two years potentially of their lives and get the most out of it with their family.
I think we could change that overnight if we had the right education and reimbursement models for palliative care in place, and I’m optimistic.
However, the [U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)] releasing a new payment model called [Guiding an Improved Dementia Experience (GUIDE)] in a per member, per month schedule for palliative care.
This indicates, whether it’s the final version or not, that we’re heading in the right direction.
What do you foresee as being different about the hospice industry as you look ahead to 2024?
We’ll continue to see Medicare Advantage penetration. It’s majorly impacting home health. There’s opportunities for palliative care. I think that will start to arise more frequently. They already are coming out with Medicare Advantage models for palliative care. CMS sees the value in it and is releasing GUIDE. The payers have known for years.
We’re starting to see more appropriate palliative care payment models come out of Medicare Advantage. We’ll see increased penetration on that front. We’ll continue to see Medicare Advantage penetration on the hospice front end bit, though potentially not as quickly.
In a word, how would you describe the future of hospice and palliative care?
It is crucial. We all face it. We all experience it at one point or another in our life. We have the need for hospice and palliative care — for family members and for ourselves.
Hospice and palliative care are probably one of the number one things we could do that would curb costs for the overall system and also improve the experience of those that it serves because of the spend and the pain that happens at the end of life in the U.S. health care system for a lot of people.
So therefore, it’s crucial. We have to get it right.
What quality must all future leaders possess?
All future leaders have to be daring. There are decisions that leaders of the future and leaders of today have to make that are different from the norm. That may make themselves, their colleagues and those they serve feel uncomfortable.
Ultimately, in order to create change, you have to make your own decisions. At some point, you will want to have a true impact.
To learn more about the Future Leaders program, visit https://futureleaders.agingmedia.com/.
Home Health Care News Reporter Patrick Philbin contributed to this report.