By Greg Shulas

Amedisys, a home health care company, is reporting strong progress in a core area that’s been a frequent Achilles heel: staff retention.

The Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based provider has cut its turnover rate from about 40 percent in late 2015 to nearly 18 percent today. It’s an achievement that has dovetailed with Amedisys’s effort to strengthen its overall recruitment strategy by consistently emphasizing its commitment to providing superior clinical care.

“We have revamped recruiting efforts” and have placed proven recruiters in key corporate positions,” said Paul Kusserow, president and CEO of Amedisys, during the 37th Annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference earlier this month in San Francisco. “We are getting enough candidates, and also we are emphasizing skill mix” within the provider’s clinical care team. Kusserow was a presenter at the conference and was able to offer details on the provider’s work in achieving its strategic goals.

To boost retention results further, Amedisys is re-examining its compensation practices to ensure pay is deemed fair to all professionals, Kusserow said. Additionally, the home health care system has fine-tuned how it deploys nurses, opting to selectively assign licensed practical nurses, or LPNs, for certain key tasks, and using registered nurses, or RNs, for other roles, he notes.

The smarter deployment of talent is generating stronger clinical results, as well as leading to more effective teamwork, which should support the continued improvements in retention rates, according to Kusserow.

Another strategy is making sure clinicians—whether on staff or prospect—know Amedisys will work to get them access to the resources they need, including innovative technology applications, to do their job effectively. This focus on investing in clinical-oriented technology complements Amedisys’s broader campaign to evangelize its consistent progress in improving patient outcomes.

“We don't get up in the morning without thinking first about clinical is not something we want to negotiate around,” Kusserow told attendees of the health care conference. “We will get out and say we will deliver distinctively [superior] homecare....We will think about how we can get our star scores better.”

Such promotion of Amedisys’s clinical ethos will likely go far in a health care recruitment environment that will likely only get more competitive in 2019. While the national unemployment rate sat at 3.9 percent in December, it is only tighter in certain areas of health care. Moreover, the cost of losing staff members amid a tougher recruitment environment can only add to the challenges that home health care providers face.

“We’re in the human capital management business,” Kusserow said at the conference. “We’re fundamentally in the staffing business. That means being the place where people want to go.”

And bolstering the HR function remains a top goal for Amedisys, as seen through its hiring last April of Sharon Brunecz as chief human resources officer, replacing the retiring Larry Pernosky. Brunecz was most recently chief human resources officer for US Acute Care Solutions, a physician-owned provider of integrated acute care services.

—Greg Shulas is a freelancer writer for HomeCare magazine.