BY: Paul Kusserow, Amedisys President and Chief Executive Officer
I understand the process. We stand on the doorstep to a home. We ring the bell or knock. The door swings open to let us in. And that’s where it all starts – where the connection between the patient and Amedisys begins.
Theoretically, I’ve long known what Amedisys does. We deliver home health and hospice services to more than 360,000 patients each year, approximately 30,000 patients per day. But I wanted to witness us in action, to see these patients and services performed for myself.
I’ve had in mind a second mission, too, ever since stepping in as CEO last December. I’ve wanted to better understand why – why we at Amedisys do what we do, and what I can do to better support you?
During the past 9 months, I’ve visited more than 40 of our care centers in 21 states. I went on numerous patient visits and met more than 1,000 of our team members. There is a compassion that emanates from the care we provide, and I’ve had an incredible array of experiences during these visits. I wanted to share with you what I’ve learned about our patients and have bucketed my learnings into three main areas:
- They’re often the sickest of the sick, and thus the most vulnerable. They know that and we know that. They’re typically struggling with chronic illness, perhaps congestive heart failure, cancer, diabetes, COPD or dementia. In the most extreme cases, they’re coming to the end-of-life. They realize they will no longer be here in six months or two weeks or even sooner, and they’re trying to come to terms with it – and every patient handles this differently.
- They’re often lonely – our average patient is 80+ years of age and possibly feeling cut off – and so they get excited about having us for company. A home health visit from, say a nurse or occupational therapist, can quickly turn into a special and highly anticipated social occasion. Patients may offer us some pastry and coffee. They’ll talk about the TV shows they enjoy and the hobbies they pursue. If we’re really good at what we do, they open the door further, showing us photos of the kids, grandkids and great-grandkids. They want to connect.
- Delivering healthcare to the home is about as personal as healthcare gets. We take care of our patients where they live, whether a house or an apartment or in assisted-living. Our clinicians go behind the scenes to enter otherwise private spaces, where some patients feel safe and cared for, and others are struggling with poverty and dysfunction. We see it all – we get the whole picture of our patients. We see the food in the refrigerator, the dogs on the couch, the drugs in the medicine cabinet and the statue of Jesus in the bedroom.
Sometimes these visits just break your heart. I saw a young man on hospice, unconscious and dying of HIV, his pious mother attending to him in the back bedroom of a shotgun shack.
But no matter the circumstances, everywhere I found inspiration. After our visits, many home health patients eventually move better, eat better, breathe better and speak better. Our hospice patients may suffer less pain and eke out a little more precious time with their families and friends. Best of all, our patients get to hold onto a sense of independence and freedom – and with that, dignity as well. We supply this.
I’ll never forget those visits; they will always stay with me. I came back with my sense of purpose about Amedisys – why we exist, the role we play in our patients’ lives – strengthened many times over.
I know that if we put our people and patients first, then good things will follow. That’s what we are here to do.