News of Otsego County

Serving Otsego County, NY, through the combined reporting of Cooperstown's Freeman's Journal and the Hometown Oneonta newspapers.
 BREAKING NEWS 
 POLICE & FIRE 
 IN MEMORIAM  
 HOMETOWN PEOPLE 
 COLUMNS 
 EDITORIALS 
 LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 

 EMPLOYMENT  
 DINING & ENTERTAINMENT  
 REAL ESTATE  
 AUTOMOTIVE  
 REMEMBRANCE  
 GOODS & SERVICES

Dan Ayres

Helios’ Dan Ayres, ‘Man With A Plan’

OTSEGO COUNTY CHAMBER

BREAKTHROUGH AWARD

Click For Reservations To Nov. 21 Otesaga Banquet

Helios’ Dan Ayres,

‘Man With A Plan’

Hospice Successor Prepares

Long-Term Care For Future

President & CEO Dan Ayres on a casual Friday at Helios Care’s new offices on Oneonta’s River Street Extension, where six sites were consolidated. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

ONEONTA – By 1995, Dan Ayres – “Dan, the man with a plan” – had been vice president/support operations for five years at Fanny Allen Hospital in Winooski, Vt., when the news broke:

The small community hospital was about to be merged into the much larger Mary Fletcher Hospital in adjacent Burlington, and there would only a single high-level job for the Fanny Allen’s half-dozen top executives.

Ayres, now CEO & vice president at Helios Care, the former Catskill Area Hospice & Palliative Care, was the youngest applicant.  He got the job of vice president/facilities services, overseeing the merger of the two hospitals into the Fletcher Allen Medical Center.

The other applicants, he said in a recent interview at Helios consolidated headquarter on the River Street Extension, talked about their experience and credentials. “I had a plan,” Ayres said.  “I had a complete binder – the organization structure, the first 90 days.”

His latest plan – the concept, new name and new logo for Catskill Hospice – was unveiled by the Helios board Tuesday, Oct. 8, before 100 people at a reception at the Southside Quality Inn.

That, plus a nomination by a family member whose father had benefit from Helios new approach – don’t take the patient to the hospital; bring quality care to the patient’s home – will be recognized at the Otsego County Chamber’s Excellus BlueCross BlueShield Breakthrough Business of the Year at the annual Small Business Banquet Thursday, Nov. 21, at The Otesaga.

“Instead of end of life, Helios is about maintaining quality of life,” said chamber President Barbara Ann Heegan.  “We have a pioneer right here in our neighborhood, which I think is fantastic.”

Helios “keeps people in their homes longer,” she continued. “They have access to medical services.  It keeps them out of emergency rooms.  It helps with overall cost – for the patients themselves as well as the organization.”

Helios board chairman Connie Jastremski, retired Bassett chief nursing officer and vice president/patient care services, said she and other board members were aware the term “hospice” had become a barrier to care.

“It isn’t really the end of life,” she said, noting patients were typically entering hospice with only 4-5 days to live. “It’s making your life better at the end.”

Plus, “Catskill” in the name didn’t accurately depict the service area, which includes the Cooperstown area, which is not in the Catskills.

A popular term in renamed hospices is “comfort care,” but the local board discovered it’s trademarked; the rights would have been expensive to buy.

“’Helios Care,’ I think, struck us at first as ‘what?’” Jastremski said.

The Helios Care board of director and their CEO unveil the new logo Oct. 10 in a reception at Quality Inn, Southside. From left are Reginald Knight, Connie Jastremski (board chair), CEO Dan Ayres, Jeffrey Woeppel, Linda Evanczyk, the organization’s founder; Dr. Yoshiro Matsuo (founder of hospice in the Oneonta area) and John Pontius. (Photo courtesy WZOZ)

“Hearing the back story” – reflected in the new logo – “is important,” she said. “Helios, the god of sun, bringing warmth and bright light into your patients’ lifes.  Around the sun are hearts, the people who are caring for them, for the love, caring and compassionate dignity we provide.”

Now, she said, it’s her mission to get doctors to understand the new emphasis, which has required adding personnel to increase the palliative care piece.

Jastremski’s last job at Bassett was in the Pain & Palliative Care Unit, “holding people’s hands and talking to them about relieving their symptoms.”  That’s the Helios goal, to treat patients early and at home, with either nurses or telemedicine.

“If it is end of life,” she said, “we’re already there.”

Since Ayres arrived back in the Otsego-Delaware region in November 2016, change had been systematic.  (See box, this page)

If the new model works for patients, it also works for hospitals, which federal reimbursement rates are now punishing if a patient isn’t fully treated and has to return two or three times, Jastremski said.

“Patients who readmit most frequently come to the emergency room with shortness of breath, heart problems, dementia,” she continued.  “If you can call someone on a 24-hour hotline, we can send a nurse out to see you, or do it by telemedicine.”

A year-long pilot project between then-Catskill Area Hospice and Leatherstocking Collaborative Health Partners, a Bassett affiliate, showed an 80 percent dip in acute-care treatment and a 35 percent cost savings.

“This is saving hospitals money,” she said.  “Nothing is worse than having hospitals have year after year of unprofitable years.”

As Helios, Catskill Hospice To Match Bassett Footprint

GOAL: REDUCE COSTS,

KEEP PATIENTS AT HOME

As Helios, Catskill Hospice

To Match Bassett Footprint

Catskill Area Hospice officially became Helios Care Tuesday, Oct. 8, as the board of directors unveiled the new name and logo. From left are Reginald Knight, Connie Jastremski (board chair), CEO Dan Ayres, Jeffrey Woeppel, Linda Evanczyk, the organization’s founder; Dr. Yoshiro Matsuo
and John Pontius. (Jennifer Hill/AllOTSEGO.com)

By JENNIFER HILL • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

ONEONTA – Changing Catskills Area Hospice & Palliative Care to Helios is about opening up a conversation.

“We found that the word ‘hospice’ was a barrier to conversation,” said CEO Dan Ayres. “When patients hear ‘hospice,’ they think they’re in their last days, not last month or year.  They don’t want to have the conversation.

“Now, we’re more likely to have a conversation, which means we can help the person get care early on.”

The rechristened Helios board unveiled the new name and logo at a Tuesday, Oct. 8 ceremony at Foothills attended by over 100 people, including Dr. Yoshiro Matsuo, the Oneonta oncologist credited with founding the local hospice.

The logo, a sunflower and a heliotrope, signified the care and guidance Helios intends to give patients on their “most difficult journey in life.”

The unveiling was for much more than name and logo, Ayres said in an interview the morning of the unveiling.

“The point is,” he said, “we are now positioning ourselves to provide more service than just hospice care that will help the patient stay healthier longer and at home.  And there will be a value to the system to pay us to do that.”

Helios’ plan is to expand Catskill Hospice from the three counties it covers now to the eight counties in the Bassett Network’s footprint.

It has negotiated a first-time agreements with Excellus/Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Utica to cover in-home care for an extended period, reducing patients’ more expensive visits to Primary Care, and much more expensive final care in Bassett’s ICUs.

Additionally, in 2021, Medicare is going to start paying for the capacity Helios is developing, Ayres said.

Expanding its potential patient base from 140,000 people in the three counties to 600,000 in eight counties will further reduce Helios’ costs, particularly overhead – administration, HR, tech and other centralized services.

Helios’ journey to the renaming ceremony began in 2017 when Ayres returned from West Virginia for his current job and observed a grim reality:  The hospice care industry was in steep decline, especially in New York State.

“Seventy percent of the state’s hospices were losing money and we are one of them,” Ayres said.  “We couldn’t keep doing the same thing the same way and expect to survive.”

The state ranked 49th in the country for hospice utilization, had the highest cost for Medicare, and had more people dying in ICUs than in any other state.

“At the same time, there is a tremendous demand for both hospice and palliative care here.  Sixty percent of the state population has chronic diseases and 40 percent have two or more of them,” Ayres said.   “And 23 percent of the population is 65 and older and enrolled in Medicare and Delaware is the fastest aging county in the state.”

But the average length of a hospice stay was 17 days.

So Catskill Hospice partnered with the Leatherstocking Collaborative Health Partners, a Bassett affiliate, on a year-long study giving 70 patients the service Helios intends to provide from here on out.

The results were astonishing, Ayres said.

“We had multiple health professionals do multiple acute care visits of the patients for a year and were able to reduce their acute-care utilization by 80 percent,” he  said.  “And we saw costs for their care – the most expensive type of care – go down 35 percent.”

The study ended in June, and the results has cause the new Helios to implement this new care and business model.

His staff, many of them new hires, go to patients’ homes to care for them, any day of the week instead of a Monday-Friday model.

Our nurses get great satisfaction in engaging one-on-one with patients and helping them in the most difficult times of their lives,” he said.  “They are computer literate and engaged in innovation – the right people at the right time.”

The change was accompanied by a big reduction in overhead.  Helios now has one office, on the River Street Extension, instead of six.  And health insurers are paying Helios to care for patients because treating patients at home means fewer hospital visits, the most expensive component of healthcare.

“We can monitor patients’ health at home better than if they rely on a hospital for care,” said Ayres.  “We help them take their medicine on time and check their blood pressure to see if they have hypertension, which can save a trip to the emergency room.”

Helios staff will also spot problems a hospital exam might not catch, such as food insecurity or burning wood to heat their homes.

“We can now give patients better care and a more seamless transition of care,” said Ayres.

Hospice Cuts Ribbon On New Office

Hospice Cuts Ribbon

On New Office

With Otsego Chamber of Commerce President Barbara Ann Heegan to his right, and Catskill Area Hospice President Dan Ayres and Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig to his left, Hospice board member Les Grummons cuts the ceremonial ribbon on Hospice’s new office located on River Street in Oneonta. Catskill Area Hospice consolidated it’s six local offices into one centralized office building to help improve the efficiency of the at-home healthcare provider’s operations. (Parker Fish/AllOTSEGO)

 

Lola Rathbone To Retire As Catskill Hospice CEO

Lola Rathbone To Retire

As Catskill Hospice CEO

Former Tri-Town, O’Connor Exec Succeeds Her
Lola Rathbone
Lola Rathbone

ONEONTA – Lola Rathbone, president/CEO of Catskill Area Hospital, announced a few minutes ago that she will retire in 2017 after 25 years with the organization.

The Board of Directors has named Dan Ayres, former CEO of O’Connor Hospital in Delhi and Tri-Town Hospital in Sidney, to succeed her.

Ayres, who will be relocating back to the area after heading Summersville Regional Medical Center in West Virginia for the past two years, served on the Hospice Board of Directors for six years.

Posts navigation

21 Railroad Ave. Cooperstown, New York 13326 • (607) 547-6103