Why Stonerise Exists: Our Journey to Today
My partner, Steve White, and I set out to do things differently when we started Stonerise. We both had experience in skilled nursing, and other businesses. It became clear to us how complicated and frustrating and fragmented healthcare was. We wanted to rethink how to play a greater, more responsible and loving role in an individual’s overall continuum of care. As an example, for a skilled nursing center patient, it is not enough for us to get you back home. Once you’re home, we want you to be able to stay there and get back to your life, avoiding future hospital stays wherever possible.
To do this – and truly do it right – requires a model of transitional care that is not common and honestly not generally accepted. It also requires you to navigate a healthcare system where every provider is typically worried about their piece of your care instead of the lifelong continuum of your care.
I had personal drivers for wanting to do it different. My father, Bob (pictured above with my youngest son, Adam, who is not so young anymore), had a stroke a few years before Stonerise formed. We think it happened during a surgery. He woke up a different person – confused, paranoid and sometimes violent – and quickly deteriorated into a state very closely to that of an Alzheimer’s patient. Anyone who has had to go through mental hygiene courts knows how gut-wrenching that is. My mom, a retired CAMC registered nurse, myself and my three siblings embarked on an 8-year journey with Dad in and out of different nursing homes, different specialists, etc.
It wasn’t safe for Dad to be at home, but he also didn’t fit the typical patient profile for skilled nursing facilities, much less the typical Alzheimer’s patient. He was in his early 70’s and in incredible shape. He was a senior national softball champion who played about six months of the year, traveling with his team. This meant he was strong, otherwise healthy and he tended to scare some of the female patients. We were often on pins and needles – waiting for the call that he would be asked to leave his care center and we would have to scramble to find him a new solution.
That was an incredibly eye-opening experience for me to be the son of the patient. Had I not seen it and touched it, Stonerise would not have the vision it has today. My biggest takeaway was that as an industry (I’m referring to all of healthcare – hospitals, general practitioners, skilled nursing), we are terrible at hand-offs and transitions. Sometimes it felt like my Dad was simply a transaction, like checking out a convenience store.
All of us (Stonerise included) can and must do better.
I am very grateful for the local nursing center Dad ended up at for the last years of his life. They were incredibly kind and generous to us. Wonderful people who are a blessing to patients. The nursing centers before them were no more the problem than my Dad was. The system is the problem.
Not a “Nursing Home”
Every few months I encounter someone who says “oh, yeah, you’re the nursing home guy.” That bothers me, more than it should, because the term is outdated and does not make sense anymore. It’s a legacy term that we can’t shake. When I think of nursing homes, I think of dark rooms, no privacy, patients crowded into the same room – the kind of places that I would go visit relatives in back in the 1980’s. So many things about those stereotypes are not true and not reflective of how we operate today.
Our patient mix is changing – they are coming to us sicker (higher acuity, more complex health issues), faster (discharging sooner from hospitals) and for much shorter lengths of time. This will keep changing, assuring that we are just as critical a stop in a patient’s health journey as a hospital. In addition to nurses, we employ doctors and therapists and social workers and nurse practitioners. The depth of clinical support is so much greater than it was even five years ago, and we continue to evaluate and add more clinical depth for our patients.
Even the label “long-term care industry” is a misrepresentation. Patients are with us for short- and long-term stays with an increasing number of our in-center patients returning home within a few weeks. Industry data is telling us that will keep getting shorter. Patients and their families also expect and demand more than they did 20 years ago. They want more convenience, more empathy, more privacy and more support across their healthcare transitions; patients want the same comforts that they have at home – as they should.
To be fair, these are all great and positive things for the “nursing home industry” of the past – not criticisms – which is part of why I’m sharing my story.
Staying on a Patient’s Journey
We were very quiet in how we grew, intentionally. Our goal was never to be the biggest provider. We did not have aspirations of expanding beyond West Virginia. Through strategy and also providence in acquisition bids we lost, we ended up with a wide breadth of skilled nursing center locations across the state – close to all major towns and hospital systems except Huntington. We started with two, and now have 17. We invested in rehabilitation therapy talent and leadership, which is embedded in every location today.
Around 2014, five years into Stonerise, we realized that we were not going to be able “to do it different” if we couldn’t go home with a patient. Our vision is to help each patient restore their health and get the most out of their lives. That is not always possible, but we strive for it nonetheless. We felt we absolutely needed to expand into a network of services, adding home health and hospice, to truly make the impact to the patient’s life and health outcome that we wanted.
And this is where we are today. Building the blocks of a network. Leveraging our skilled nursing center (we are shifting to call them “transitional care centers” because that’s what they are) infrastructure and home health agencies to make a difference in my beautiful home state of West Virginia, and southeastern Ohio where we also have a footprint.
I love caring for our aging communities. It’s a part of what we do and I will continue to be its biggest advocate. It’s just not the only thing skilled nursing centers do. And skilled nursing centers aren’t the only thing we do at Stonerise.
One step at a time, we are trying to reinvent transitional care.
About the author
Larry Pack is CEO and Co-Founder of Stonerise Healthcare.