Sixteen years ago, I lost someone very close to me, a man who was like a father. When he was diagnosed with cancer, his disease was so advanced doctors couldn’t easily determine the source. Three months later, he was gone. But, in those final months, he and his family received some of the best comfort care possible. He was not in pain, his wishes were understood and honored and experts were there to guide the family through the whole process. I thought that was just the way serious illness and death were handled by modern healthcare. I was wrong.
Twelve years later, I lost another loved one and the experience could not have been more different.
My grandmother’s last months were far from comforting. Lost in a rural healthcare system, she suffered with little support or understanding of her end-of-life wishes. The in-home palliative and hospice services offered to my first loved one were not available locally. Her professional care providers did the best they could to meet her clinical needs, but they weren’t equipped to understand or meet her – nor her family’s – wishes. And, while the first person’s death was marked in the moment and with respect, my grandmother was found hours after she had died. I have no knowledge of what her final moments were like and that hurts deeply. Was she in pain? Was she at peace? Did she know that her life mattered and she was loved by so many? My family and I will never know. And, the family that mattered more to her than anything, never got to say goodbye.
Without any medical training, and experience only in the marketing of healthcare, I didn’t see any way to help improve care. All I thought I could do was advocate for better care. So, 18 months later, I took the helm of a marketing firm with proven experience helping hospice and home health organizations connect with and care for families in need.
A new door opened last October, thanks to Katie Wehri of the National Association for Home Care and Hospice. During her speech at the NAHC annual conference, Katie said, “I wish someone with experience in continuous improvement from the manufacturing world would bring some of those best practices to homecare.”
I had just spent the past seven years of my career with one of the world’s leading manufacturing companies, working closely with and learning from brilliant men and women from across the globe who knew how to continuously improve processes and get results. Together, we had built a start-up business within a Fortune 500 company with an incredible culture, an unstoppable and high-performing team, and coveted brand. We parlayed this foundation into a customer-centric continuous improvement mission to improve every day. From the plant floor to customer service to sales to human resources, we were aligned on our mission and helping each other get to new performance levels.
And, we were successful! In three years, we grew the business from a few million dollars to more than $40 million in annual revenue. And, we measured and reported progress at each step of the way to show the c-suite of the parent company their return on investment.
Perhaps there was more my new agency team and I could do to increase access, elevate quality, and improve experiences for patients and families.
After talking with Katie, my team and I reached out to other industry leaders and our clients. We found that the combination of our agency’s 18 years of documented successes in home care, my manufacturing background, and our collective passion for culture and teambuilding was sought after in the industry.
With the relaunch of our business as Transcend Strategy Group, my colleagues and I are proclaiming our shared commitment to the future of this industry and to the patients and families it serves. Our desire is to protect and enhance access to the highest quality of home-based care by helping the industry improve every day. Through technology, brand and culture building, data, communications, and continuous improvement methodology, we will work to build a brighter future for care in the home – wherever patients call home.
Today, two more of my loved ones are receiving home-based care. My experience informs the questions I ask to assess the quality of care they are receiving. For my grandfather, I can help him understand why he is not eligible for oxygen under Medicare standards. That conversation blossomed into a new, deep discussion where he could share with me what it’s like to feel your body failing you. The man who had only ever wanted to hear about my accomplishments, suddenly became real, human, and wise. The bonds that come from those kinds of conversations are gifts to cherish for years. And, I want everyone to have the opportunity to have them.
I see a future where you will not have to have had a good or bad care experience to be educated, and where rights, care protocols, and training are readily and easily understandable for everyone. Where professional and family care providers are developed, cherished, supported, celebrated and valued. And, where best in class care is the standard, not something that must be sought out.
What do you say? Want to create this future together?
–by Stephanie J., personal and professional caregiver