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Bob Brody, CEO of Franciscan St. Francis Health, which operates three hospitals in central Indiana as part of the 13-hospital Franciscan Alliance system, discussed the rationale for its decision to take control of Visiting Nurse Service Inc. VNS, based in Indianapolis, will have its entire board of directors appointed by Franciscan St. Francis. VNS' 200 employees will remain in place. The only financial component of the deal is that Franciscan St. Francis will pay the roughly $400,000 annual expense of running VNS' Abbie Hunt Bryce Home for terminally ill homeless patients. VNS, founded in 1913, sends nurses, therapists, dieticians and medical social workers to patients’ homes in 30 counties and also does remote monitoring of patients.

IBJ: How does your agreement with VNS help Franciscan St. Francis develop an accountable care organization?
A: We understand that an emphasis is going be on managing patients’ care. With that responsibility, which we welcome, we realize we’ll be much more engaged at managing care across the delivery system. As we move away from a system where hospitals are only focused on what goes on in the hospitals, the opportunity is there to do the kinds of care coordination activities and to assist patients at optimizing the state of their health care.

IBJ: St. Francis has had home and hospice care for years. Why did you decide to partner with VNS instead of growing your own capabilities?
A: VNS’ footprint is a bit broader than the St. Francis footprint. Also, we’ll be working to take advantage of any efficiencies or economies of scale. It creates a great platform that allows us to expand. In time, I think we’ll naturally look to extend that footprint across the state by tying into our existing service areas, Franciscan Alliance areas, but also into new areas.

IBJ: Do you have any plans to trim staff once St. Francis takes control of VNS’ board?
A: In back office, bookkeeping, etc., there may be [down the road]. But in the home health and hospice arena, there is going to be more of an emphasis in the future on taking care of patients in their homes. I think there are going to be more jobs and more opportunities for people.

 

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