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Better Together: Colorado VNA and RVNA Merge Operations, Expand Services

Colorado VNA logo

               Contact:  Kim Howard
                             (303) 698-6517      howardk@vnacolorado.org

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Colorado VNA and RVNA Merge Operations, Expand Services

 

April 12, 2016 (Denver, Colorado) – Colorado Visiting Nurse Association (Colorado VNA) and the Rehabilitation & Visiting Nurse Association (RVNA) announced today that they will be merging their two nonprofit organizations as of May 1st  to achieve greater efficiencies while expanding capabilities and services. The decision was unanimously approved by both agencies’ board of directors after several months of negotiations and due diligence.

Both Colorado VNA and RVNA have provided excellent care for decades, and in Colorado VNA’s case for well over a century. Yet the rapidly changing healthcare environment and emergence of large-scale health systems and insurance companies is driving a need for equally large and better clinically-integrated home health agencies.
“Combining Colorado VNA and RVNA into one agency will provide economies of scale in home health not previously seen in Colorado. Together, Colorado VNA and RVNA will create the network and services required to be successful in the changing, and more complex, healthcare landscape,” states Colorado VNA CEO, Chris Lee.

 

Adds RVNA CEO Lori Follett of the merger, “Although RVNA has sustained itself for almost 37 years, this merger will help take our organization to the next level in terms of being able to attract and retain more staff with better pay and benefits as well as operate more efficiently and better serve our clients with technology improvements.”

 

RVNA clinical operations and leadership will remain in the Greeley area, while administrative functions migrate to the Denver headquarters. Patients across the Front Range will benefit from organizational synergies and from a shared commitment to provide the highest quality and most compassionate care.
 
About Colorado VNA
Colorado Visiting Nurse Association (Colorado VNA) is a nonprofit, Medicare-certified home health organization founded in 1889. Its mission is to provide a continuum of health care in the home and community that supports optimal well-being, independence, and dignity. In 2015, Colorado VNA provided more than 220,000 home and community health and wellness touchpoints. The organization’s comprehensive array of health services spans all levels of intensity of care for individuals, communities, and businesses. Colorado VNA has also developed innovative community programs to help seniors age-in-place. For more information, visit www.VNAColorado.org.

 

About RVNA

RVNA, a nonprofit, community-based homecare agency, has been serving Northern Colorado since 1979. RVNA’s mission is to provide exceptional family-centered and compassionate home care solutions to the residents of Larimer and Weld counties, regardless of one’s ability to pay. For more information, visit www.rvna.info.

Holiday Depression

Holiday Depression: How to Recognize It and Take Action

Holiday Depression

At the Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, we know that people facing medical challenges are more susceptible to Depression —especially during the Holidays.

Social isolation is one of the biggest predictors of Depression. It can be difficult for people who are homebound or not fully physically able to maintain active social lives and take part in social events including family gatherings and holiday parties. For many people, holidays can also be a painful reminder of the past. This is especially true for people who have experienced a significant loss, such as the death of a spouse.

Contributors to Depression include:
• Minor or serious medical problem
• Chronic pain or complications of an illness
• Memory loss
• Poor diet
• Loss of a spouse or companion
• Lack of exercise or sleep
• Change in routine
• General frustrations with aging

Symptoms to look for include:
• Irritable or hopeless mood
• Feelings of worthlessness or sadness
• Expressions of helplessness
• Anxiety
• Loss of interest in daily activities
• Changes in appetite
• Significant weight loss or gain
• Lack of attention to personal care and hygiene
• Fatigue
• Difficulty concentrating
• Thoughts about death and suicide

How to Help
• Allow the person to talk about their feelings. It can be as simple as asking, “how are you feeling?” and listening to what they say. They may not volunteer how they are feeling unless you ask, because they don’t want to be ‘a burden.’ Taking a real interest in their wellbeing also demonstrates how much you care.
• Discuss foods with better nutrition. Some depression can be exacerbated by lack of good nutrition. Share tasty food or recipes that are high in Vitamins and Minerals.
• Increasing physical activity improves mood. Physical limitations of most elderly may make this hard so use simple exercises (like talking a walk) or reinforce what they are working on with Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy.
• Get enough sleep. Emphasize the importance of sleep and encourage them to ask their doctor for help if they routinely experience disrupted sleep patterns.
• Fresh Air and Sunshine – If possible, encourage them to get outside or sit on the front/back porch (wearing appropriate clothing). Sunshine and fresh air is good for the soul and also helps with Vitamin D, which boosts mood.
• Encourage them to ask their Colorado VNA care providers about additional resources, including our visiting Medical Social Workers and our Holiday Adopt-a-Patient program.

Take a Mental Health First Aid training with the Colorado VNA to learn more about recognizing and responding supportively and constructively to common mental health problems. The trainings are free to community members and offered as paid trainings to VNA staff through a grant from Community First Foundation. For more information about this program or to reserve your seat, call (303) 698-6367 or email mhfa@vnacolorado.org.

Moving from home care to home-based services

Photo courtesy of Gretta Blankenship

Photo courtesy of Gretta Blankenship

It’s time to change what we call ourselves…move from thinking of the Colorado Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) as a “non-profit home health care agency” to a “non-profit organization that provides home-based services”. This may seem like a small distinction, but it there are three reasons we should make this change:
1) “Home health care” agencies are defined by outdated Medicare regulations specifically focused on controlling home care as a way to decrease fraud and abuse within a fee-for-service payment environment.
2) Second, there is very little government and/or insurance company reimbursement for para-based services focused on helping patients remain independent in the home.
3) Further, there is very little coordination of care across our various divisions because of the differing ways we are paid for care that we provide.

The Colorado Visiting Nurse Association has begun to think differently about the care we provide as healthcare transitions from a fee-for-service (FFS) payment system to one where healthcare organizations are paid for overall care and health outcomes.
Currently there are many differences between the care provided by each of our home-focused divisions; home health, paraprofessional home services and hospice/palliative. Care provided by our home health professionals is mostly regulated by Medicare and requires patients to be “home-bound” and have a documented needed for care provided by an RN, PT, LPN, etc.

By definition, paraprofessionals are workers who are not qualified or licensed to serve in particular professions but who handle tasks in support of qualified professionals in those fields. Paraprofessionals often work alongside fully qualified professionals, but they also sometimes work more independently, such as in the case of the health care paraprofessionals who provide home visits to the disabled, ill or elderly.

Care provide by paraprofessionals is more proactive in nature and is provided to help patients remain independent in the home, e.g., bathing, shopping, house-keeping, getting in and out of bed, etc. Hospice visits for appropriate patients are similar to home health visits in that hospice patients have to meet strict criteria for admission, i.e. patients must have a terminal diagnosis and patients must have a prognosis of having less than six months to live.

As one can see, there is a big barrier between the care provided by paraprofessionals and home health and hospice; the barrier has to do with the strict Medicare definitions put in place to help decrease overuse and abuse of skilled home health. Bottom line: the way home health services are reimbursed in our country is too focused on decreasing costs and abuse, rather than on improving care for patients.

The good news is that the old ways of paying for the care we provide are beginning to change as Medicare begins to move to paying for the value provided in the home, rather than just for an episode of care. Here is an excerpt taken from the recent U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Report to Congress: Plan to Implement a Medicare Home Health Agency Value-Based Purchasing Program. The report details a summary of Medicare’s view of the problem of fraud, as well as the limited connection between payments and quality of care.

“…the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), the Office of the Inspector General, the General Accounting Office (GAO), and other stakeholders have raised significant concerns with fraud and abuse in the Medicare home health benefit. While the benefit is designed to encourage teams of skilled professionals to provide patient-focused care to homebound beneficiaries, there is growing concern that the existing payment system does not provide the necessary incentives to provide such high quality patient focused care.”

There is a lot that is changing in healthcare. Care provided in the home is fast becoming of vital importance to improving the health of populations of patients.

– Christopher Lee, Colorado VNA President & CEO, July 13, 2015

Prescription drug safety starts with all Coloradans

Facebook #1 TMS 2015
In February 2015, Governor John Hickenlooper launched the “Take Meds Seriously” public awareness campaign. “Take Meds Seriously” is a new statewide campaign advocating for the safe use, storage and disposal of prescription drugs in Colorado.

Behind this vital campaign is a group called The Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention. The Consortium consists of a very impressive list of community partners, each of whom is participating in one of six work groups.

According to the campaign website, “The mission of the Consortium is to reduce the abuse and misuse of prescription drugs in the State of Colorado through improvements in education, public outreach, research, safe disposal, and treatment. The goal of these efforts is to prevent 92,000 Coloradans from misusing opioids by 2016.”

Grim statistics and recent surveys reveal how pervasive prescription drug misuse and abuse is in Colorado. Thirty-five Coloradans died a month in 2013 from unintentional drug overdoses.

Gov. Hickenlooper announced on February 24, 2015, “Colorado ranks 12th in the nation for abuse and misuse of prescription drugs. This campaign is just one part of a coordinated, statewide strategy that simultaneously restricts access to prescription drugs for illicit use, while ensuring access for those who legitimately need them. The messages and tools provided through this effort will help us take on this serious public health challenge, as part of our commitment to becoming the healthiest state in the nation.”

“The Colorado Attorney General’s Office is proud to have contributed $1 million in seed money to support the Consortium’s work,” said Attorney General Cynthia Coffman. “It is fitting that funds from settlements with major pharmaceutical companies to resolve charges of misconduct are now being spent to combat Colorado’s prescription drug abuse problem.”

The University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy on the Anschutz Medical Campus serves as the Coordinating Center and headquarters for the Consortium. The aim is for the Consortium to meet specific quarterly goals in each of the six work group areas and produce a specific Colorado Plan in one year. The Colorado VNA is proud to be a public awareness advocate for this important cause.

Did you know?
• Nearly 224,000 Coloradans misuse prescription pain relievers each year. Prescription drug safety starts with you and asking questions of your physician and pharmacist.
• One out of every six of Colorado’s 12th graders has taken a prescription that wasn’t theirs. Keep your family safe and talk to your kids about the right way to use prescription medicine. Visit TakeMedsSeriously.org for safety tips and much more.
• In 2013, almost 50 Coloradans died each month from unintentional drug poisonings. Safe prescription medicine use starts with you.
• Almost half of all Coloradans have unused or expired prescription drugs in their medicine cabinets at home that can be abused. You don’t need them, so get rid of them. Learn the best way to dispose your prescription medicine at TakeMedsSeriously.org.
• 42 percent of teens who’ve misused or abused prescription drugs got them from their parents’ medicine cabinet. Have you locked up your medicine? Keep your children safe.
Start an ongoing conversation with your kids about the subject. SpeakNowColorado.org is a comprehensive website for parents that provides guidance on how to address prescription drugs, and other substances, with their children.
• There are resources in our state to help with addiction. Several agencies around the state offer help with addiction or dependency. Go to http://takemedsseriously.org/safe-use/abuse/recreational-use/ to find help near you.

To learn more about the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention, visit its website and Save the Date for the group’s annual meeting this fall on October 15, 2015.

Immunization Protects All of Us: Don’t Wait. Vaccinate!

August is National Immunization Awareness Month

August is National Immunization Awareness Month

August is National Immunization Awareness Month. In the United States, vaccines have greatly reduced infectious diseases that once routinely killed or harmed many infants, children, and adults. However, the viruses and bacteria that cause vaccine-preventable disease still exist and can be passed on to people who are not protected by vaccines. Every year, thousands of Americans still suffer serious health problems, are hospitalized, and even die from diseases that could be prevented by vaccines. Protect your health and the health of your family. Make sure you and your loved ones are up-to-date on recommended vaccines.

Here’s why you shouldn’t wait:
• Many vaccine-preventable diseases are still common in the U.S.
• Those that are not common here are still found in other parts of the world, and can still be a threat.
• Some of these diseases are very contagious.
• Any of these diseases could be serious – even for healthy people.
• Certain people may be at higher risk for getting some diseases or having more serious illness if they were to get sick, like young children, older adults, and those with health conditions.

Vaccines are our best protection against a number of serious, and sometimes deadly, diseases. Every year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other medical experts update vaccine recommendations for children, teens, and adults based on the latest research and evidence-based science on vaccine safety, effectiveness, and patterns of vaccine-preventable diseases.

You have the power to protect yourself and the ones you love. Talk to your healthcare professional about which vaccines are right for you and your family.

Getting Vaccinated
Most private health insurance plans cover the cost of recommended vaccines. The Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program helps provide vaccines to children whose parents or guardians may not be able to afford them. Medicare and Medicaid also cover a number of vaccines for adults. Vaccines are available at private doctor offices, as well as other convenient locations such as pharmacies, workplaces, community health clinics, and health departments.

To learn more about vaccines and take a quick quiz to find out which vaccines you may need, visit: www.cdc.gov/vaccines/adults

The Colorado VNA has begun early booking for flu immunization clinics this fall.  To reserve your preferred date, be sure to call us at 303-698-2121 to get your flu clinic on your calendar.  We also offer an online booking option.  Just click here and one of our Wellness team members will get back to you right away.

 

 

Raising awareness globally for hepatitis prevention

Photo courtesy of CDC.gov

Photo courtesy of CDC.gov

Today is World Hepatitis Day.  This global health awareness event is held annually on July 28th, the birthday of Dr. Baruch Blumberg (1925-2011). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, Dr. Blumberg discovered the hepatitis B virus in 1967 and two years later developed the first hepatitis B vaccine and for these achievements won the Nobel Prize.

Viral hepatitis is caused by infection of one of five viruses – hepatitis A, B, C, D or E. All hepatitis viruses can cause inflammation of the liver, and chronic hepatitis B and C can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer. Viral hepatitis is a major global health threat with around 240 million people living with chronic hepatitis B and up to 150 million people living with chronic hepatitis C.

In order to raise awareness of this hidden epidemic, the World Health Assembly and the President of the United States have designated July 28th as World Hepatitis Day.

Organizations around the world, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and CDC, use World Hepatitis Day to raise awareness of the problem and what needs to be done to strengthen efforts in prevention, screening and control of viral hepatitis.

To learn more, read the press release issued today by WHO.

Colorado VNA is proud to be able to offer hepatitis vaccinations year-round via our Wellness Division.  To inquire how we can come to you to administer a workplace or community-based organization wellness clinic with seasonal flu shots, TB tests, biometrics screenings and of course, Hep B or Hep A & B vaccinations, click here.  To speak with a member of our Wellness team and to discuss pricing, call 303-698-6517.

 

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Awards Colorado VNA 4-Star Rating

Logo artwork courtesy of cms.gov

Logo artwork courtesy of cms.gov

Colorado Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) announced today that it received a 4-star rating from Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Home Health Compare’s debut star rating program. Colorado VNA is one of only two Denver-based agencies to achieve a 4-star rating or higher (and only 21% of agencies statewide scored 4 or higher). The state and national average is 3 stars.

“Colorado VNA is committed to compassionate, patient-centered care, and our above average rating affirms this,” said President and CEO Chris Lee.

CMS developed Home Health Compare as a key tool for consumers to use when choosing a home health provider. However, the site includes an abundance of information that can be cumbersome to wade through. In December 2014, CMS announced the addition of the star ratings program, which, according to the CMS website, is designed to help “consumers more quickly identify differences in quality and make use of the information when selecting a health care provider. In addition…star ratings can also help the agencies identify areas for improvement.” Key criteria of the CMS rating system include timeliness of start of care, patient satisfaction, hospital readmissions, and other important quality indicators.

Colorado VNA’s Lee further noted that the organization is “proud of our rating at the debut of this program, but we will not rest on our laurels. We have developed a culture of continuous improvement to ensure the best care and outcomes for our patients, and we are committed to achieving a 5-star rating.”

To view the CMS source material, click here for the related July 16, 2015 article written by Sabriya Rice of ModernHealthcare.com.

 

June 27 is National HIV Testing Day

June 27 is National HIV and AIDS Testing Day (photo courtesy of aids.gov website)

June 27 is National HIV and AIDS Testing Day (photo courtesy of aids.gov website)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 be tested for HIV at least once as part of their routine health care. Tomorrow is national HIV and AIDS Testing Day to build awareness about the importance of being assessed.

At Colorado Visiting Nurse Association (VNA), our vision statement reflects our commitment to excelling as a valued leader, trusted partner and provider-of-choice recognized for quality health care delivery and optimal outcomes achieved in collaboration with patients and their families, our dedicated, caring staff and our established network of health care agencies.  This is why we encourage everyone to make one of the most adult decisions of their lives and get tested for HIV and AIDS this month.  A very positive story about the importance of testing is told by Patrick, Blogger, New Media Expert and Athlete. Click here to hear his powerful story.

The population of the State of Colorado is 5,355,866, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.  Here below are some Colorado Data Highlights related to HIV and AIDS diagnoses (source: http://aidsvu.org/state/colorado/).

  • People living with an HIV or AIDS diagnosis in 2012: 11,558
  • New HIV diagnoses in 2013: 329
  • Deaths in 2012 due to HIV/AIDS: 106
  • 89% of people living with an HIV diagnosis in 2012 were men, 11% were women.
  • 14% of people living with an HIV diagnosis in 2012 were black, 20% Hispanic/Latino, and 64% white.
  • In 2012, 78% of HIV cases in men were from male-to-male sexual contact, 6% were from injection drug use, and 12% were from injection drug use and male to male sexual contact.
  • In 2012, 72% of HIV cases in women were from heterosexual contact, and 26% were from injection drug use.

Did you know that the Colorado VNA, as part of its Workplace Wellness Program, offers TB tests and Hep A & B (3-part series) vaccinations at schools, dentist offices, businesses, property management offices and community organizations?  Colorado Visiting Nurse Association’s compassionate, dedicated, and experienced healthcare professionals are recognized for their expert, personal medical attention and for their strong tradition of ensuring continuity of care while creating warm relationships with patients.

A portion of the proceeds from our Workplace Wellness clinics support our home nurse visits to ill, disabled and elderly adults. By selecting the Colorado VNA as your Workplace Wellness immunizations provider, you are protecting your health and supporting the community. Colorado VNA proudly celebrated 125 years of service in our state in 2014.  To learn more about our year-round Workplace Wellness services, call 303-698-6517.

 

Celebrate Men’s Health in June

MHM-no-date-dark-red-0415-135x150

Each year in the days leading up to Father’s Day, we celebrate Men’s Health as a country. June is national Men’s Health Month. The goal of Men’s Health Month is to raise awareness on how to prevent health problems among men. It is the perfect time to encourage senior men to obtain regular medical checkups, focus on illness prevention and embrace self-care activities such as regular exercise and even trying new past times such as yoga or swimming. At Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, we support our community in encouraging health senior living and applauding men for taking charge of their health and fitness, as they go through life.

In the spirit of supporting Men’s Health and healthier senior living, we hope you will click here to read some great nutrition tips for older men, courtesy of EatRight.org

To learn more about the Senior Wellness Medical Foot Care Clinics offered by Colorado Visiting Nurse Association throughout metro Denver and in Colorado Springs, call our hotline Monday – Friday 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at 303-698-6496. We have many foot care clinics, all staffed by Registered Nurses, that are Open to the Public so call for your appointment today.

New CEO Chris Lee talks to first day at Colorado VNA

My first day at Colorado Visiting Nurse Association

By Christopher Lee, President & CEO

And so begins an exciting new phase in my career…my new role as President and CEO for Colorado VNA. I have been blessed with many exciting opportunities in my career and this one ranks as the most exciting. I am just finishing up my position as General Manager for SCL Home Health Solutions (SCLHHS), which is SCL/Exempla’s home health company. It has been a challenging position, but one that has provided a significant perspective on the complexities of running a mission-based home health organization. I have also learned a lot about the importance and power of partnering with hospitals and payers in order to provide integrated care across the continuum. As I am sure many of you know, health systems and payers have not always thought of non-facility-based care as an important part of the care continuum! Things have changed!

Prior to SCLHHS I was in charge of business development for Good Samaritan Medical Center in Lafayette where I was responsible for helping the hospital grow by expanding and improving various service lines. In addition to business development I ran the medical imaging department for over seven years and was part of the original leadership team that opened the hospital in 2004. It was at Good Samaritan that I learned from some amazing leaders and role models, specifically Beth Forsyth (COO) and Dave Hamm (CEO). Beth and Dave taught me numerous lessons about leadership and the importance of listening to front line and supervisory staff as a way to improve care for patients and increase staff satisfaction. I also spent a lot of time working on and leading performance improvement projects across the hospital. These projects were focused on improving the efficiency and performance of processes in order to make care for patients safer and more efficient.

Throughout my career I have had the support of a wonderful wife and my 12 year old twin boys and 9 year old daughter. They all keep me busy outside of work and fortunately have helped provide work-life balance.  Being able to help drive the kids back and forth between baseball, soccer, track and other various activities keeps me extremely busy outside of work. In addition to family activities I do enjoy taking advantage of what Colorado has to offer by spending time on the trails and roads on my bike as well as logging some miles running to stay in shape. We live in a beautiful place and exploring on foot or on wheels provides a significant amount of inspiration for me to do my best at work.

I hope the above has provided a brief summary of my background and an overview of the perspective I bring to CVNA. I also invite you to see the press release about my new role as additional reference.

Stay tuned for more posts in the future!