VIA Health CEO: Hospices Must Prep for Value-Based Care in 2024

Preparing to work within a value-based payment environment is top of mind for hospice leaders as they look ahead to 2024, Pete Brunnick, CEO of VIA Health Partners, told Hospice News.

Formerly Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region, VIA Health Partners currently serves 32 counties in North and South Carolina. The nonprofit was established in 1978 as Hospice at Charlotte.

VIA offers community-based serious illness and end-of-life care, and also operates five inpatient hospice facilities in North Carolina and one in South Carolina. Aside from hospice and palliative care, VIA Health Partners also has pediatric, dementia and veterans care programs.


Hospice News recently spoke with Brunnick about the ways providers need to innovate in order to thrive in a value-based world.

VIA Health
VIA Health Partners CEO Peter Brunnick

What are your priorities as you look ahead to 2024? What’s top of mind for you?

What’s top of mind is how do we think in the value-based world, how we become more of that provider that provides the plurality of care for patients. That involves moving out beyond hospice.


What hospice providers typically provide in terms of palliative care, it tends to be pain and symptom and management. It tends to be going into care and really moving in with more of the care delivery.

We’ve got some things in the works, but that’s the big thing — that evolution away from our traditional framework of care and expanding that in a real way. That’s a big priority for us in 2024.

Geographically, we have some expansion plans in the works for the coming year, and we are just getting the pieces in place for that. Those, again, are expanding our geographic reach, really developing expanding our service lines, expanding our scope of care or scale of care and then just strengthening some relationship with existing partners.

How would you characterize your approach to fostering growth? And could you say a little bit about the growth that VIA has already experienced during the past couple of years?

It’s been done in several ways. We’ve acquired a hospice in North Carolina where we’ve just gone out into that territory and grown.

And each one is different. In each one, the circumstances made sense for that particular approach. We know that we have to build our geographic footprint, and it’s really been very useful in terms of talking with a large provider and basically being able to say we’d be taking patients out there where they are.

It’s been pushing out in geography without losing the quality of care that we provide. We don’t go into a territory unless we can provide 24-hour care seven days a week, though the infrastructure always has to be in place. But we’ve been fairly successful with that in South Carolina.

You’ve taken some innovative approaches to a lot of the issues affecting the space. I want to talk first about your recruitment and retention strategies. What are some of the actions you’ve implemented to attract and retain staff?

One is that we have really built off our internal capacity to recruit. We have full-time internal recruiters, and they’re busy. Some of them have come from other industries. At first, we worried about how they could stay busy, but we found out quickly that they’re busy all the time. We’re always recruiting. If we’re fully staffed, we’re still recruiting. We also have a great onboarding program.

Retaining employees is really a matter of having a culture that really values people that acknowledges that strategically. We are very public about our support for employees. We believe that they are our No. 1 resource.

Lastly, just to understand the market. These days it is a seller’s market, so to speak, in terms of recruiting. We haven’t tried to achieve a financial outcome by taking shortcuts with our team. We have a really good benefits program and highly competitive compensation.

Our strategy completely falls apart if we don’t have the people to execute it. The good thing is that we’ve been fortunate in that respect. While we’ve had to increase our compensation rates dramatically, we’ve been able to grow. We’re not saying we’re fully staffed, but we’re pretty darn close to it.

How are you leveraging technology to meet some of your organization’s objectives?

We’ve made a pretty big bite into technology, We need better information, and it’s all driven by information.

First, we need to be able to move information efficiently throughout the organization. We need that information in order to manage the organization better. But we also need information when we speak with our referral sources or our partners that we have information provided to them that demonstrates our value.

Also, we use information to demonstrate value in the fact that we can be an effective provider in managing risk. We have spent a significant amount of money on a new [electronic medical record system (EMR)]. We’re using artificial intelligence. We are using predictive analytics data to prognosticate the trajectory of our patients.

We use it to help determine whether a patient is palliative-care appropriate or hospice-appropriate, being able to identify where they are on a continuum and be able to move them appropriately and accurately.

We’ve invested a lot in technology. A lot of people think of technology as a decision point. We don’t see it as a decision point; it’s a mandate.

Can you talk a little bit about the continuum of care you offer outside of hospice and how you’re growing those programs?

With our palliative care program and related serious illness programs, we’re expanding the scope of elder care, getting beyond just the goals of care and pain management and really providing things like blood draws, labs and things that some may not expect in the home setting.

We’re partnering with various hospitals and different programs that have value for them. They have really seen some great things that we’re doing.

We are really building out our palliative care program. It’s interesting that a lot of folks right now are moving away from that, because it’s expensive and it’s not a great business model. But we think that’s where the market is going.

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