BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (June 17, 2022)—Software maker WellSky recently announced that it has hired a new chief growth officer to lead the next phase of the company’s evolution and has started a project to expand its footprint in its headquarters of Kansas City, with plans to hire an additional 1,000 employees. HomeCare chatted with WellSky CEO Bill Miller about the company’s strategy moving forward and where he sees home- and community-based care headed.
HomeCare: This development is part of a trend of growth that you've been riding for several years in home health and hospice, and longer than that in the broader industry, right?
Miller: Actually, our growth slowed a little bit as one might expect during COVID. But since then, I think it's safe to say that we've come back to our pre-COVID growth rates. And in some ways, the pandemic had some positive effects in terms of growth in our business, because we are providing software for all the places in the world that are not your hospital, and … there’s a lot of emphasis on keeping people out of the hospital. But even if that weren't the case, what we do is help our clients increase efficiency and improve care in the home where you're going to see more volume and more patients receiving care.
HomeCare: What are you seeing these days as you work with your customers and partners as their top priorities? I could probably put money down on what you're going to say…
Miller: The first one is workforce. I mean, it's really No. 1, 2 and 3. We released a new solution that starts helping our clients gauge the engagement level of their workforce by watching how long they stay coding, how long they stay on appointments and how thorough they are, the time they log in, and things like that. It offers really good predictive analytics as to how engaged your workforce is and can give you some feel for where you have hot spots, so it's an interesting way to look at the problem. We will likely use elements of it in our own workforce, because we have had our own challenges with the great resignation.
I think the second thing on their mind is expansion and competitiveness in this world where more of our clients and more of your readers have consolidated and are getting bought, or are buying others. It's going be a difficult to be a small regional or small local standalone home health agency in the midst of continued consolidation. And that will be a question that everybody's got to grapple with over time—how to compete and how to continue to make investments so you can grow.
HomeCare: Do you think we're heading towards a sort of stratification where there's only large and maybe some very tiny businesses?
Miller: I do think that there is going to be a lot of economic pressure for there to be these uber-large multiservice line home health/post-acute agencies. And if the acquisitions and the mergers don't happen by providers, you're going to see the payers do it, like what happened with Optum and LHC and the Kindred Humana deal. I guess I'd put it this way: I would be surprised in five years if we don't see the total number of home health agencies drop by half. That doesn’t mean there will be less caregivers. It just means there will be more singular, large organizations. I think it’s going to actually be a growth area of our economy.
HomeCare: You said you didn't think there'd be fewer caregivers. Do you think that there can be more patients and more care provided with the same number of caregivers?
Miller: I think technology has a role in allowing there to be higher velocity and simplicity in a visit. I think telemedicine will influence that. It ebbs and flows a little bit, but I think telemedicine is going to continue to carve out its niche and be an important part of how we care for those at home. COVID taught us a lot about that, but some of that will come to an end after the COVID relief funds run out. I think Congress will grapple with that and I'm optimistic. I'm not optimistic that they'll get it right or perfect the first time. But I think there will be a progression where we’ll learn that the way we deal with the capacity crisis in our country is to use tools like telehealth where it's appropriate and to make sure the providers are reimbursed properly for it.
HomeCare: When you think about WellSky in, say, two years or five years, what are your top priorities?
Miller: I think the easiest way that I want to express it is that we are off the charts in terms of delighting our clients, and as a function of that, they’re actually better at their jobs and delivering care and getting high scores because they use WellSky. I think that's how we have to think about the value we bring and if the answer to that is yes, our growth aspirations will fall into place and our talent aspirations will fall into place because people will want to work in a company like that. I think it's a good old-fashioned “stick to your knitting.” Let's help our clients get better; let's not get in their way; let's not have software that slows them down. Let's not build software that makes their job harder and let's try to help them do what they really want to do, which is deliver great care. That’s easier said than done, but that's the easiest way I can express what we're trying to do.