Penn Highlands Healthcare Rebrands Home Care Services

under Penn Highlands Community Nurses

January 09, 2017

Penn Highlands Healthcare’s home care agencies are joining together to become a stronger, united team.

“Penn Highlands home health, hospice and private duty personnel have been given a wonderful opportunity to come together as one agency and put all of our talent and resources on one team.  We have excellent clinicians that are out in our communities every day taking care of our patients and clients.  The unification of the Penn Highlands home care agencies will strengthen and grow our ability to see more people in need of the services we provide,” Brenda Porter, service line director of home care, said.

She went on to explain that home health, private duty and hospice services are provided through all four of the Penn Highlands’ hospitals – Penn Highlands Brookville, Penn Highlands Clearfield, Penn Highlands DuBois and Community Nurses Inc. under Penn Highlands Elk. These agencies combined currently serve patients in more than a dozen counties throughout the state, and will continue to do so.

“We have no intention of changing the communities we serve. Actually, we want to strengthen the services to those patients and further expand our reach,” Porter noted.

However, operating four separate home care agencies within one system presents challenges, including overlapping service areas, duplication of efforts and different computer and software programs.

The alliance will start with a name change for all of the agencies – they will now be known as Penn Highlands Community Nurses.

“This will solidify our commitment to working together to build an even stronger brand identity throughout the region,” Porter noted.

The plan, which will be implemented over the next few months, also involves streamlining operations by establishing a central office for administrative, intake and billing services; this office will continue to be headquartered in St. Marys. Having a centralized intake office will improve and expedite referrals, according to Porter. 

“For example, physicians and other referral sources will be able to call one number to make a referral as opposed to calling multiple numbers for each of our agencies. Once a referral is made, centralized scheduling will be used to match a patient’s location with a clinician close to them, thereby reducing travel time for the clinician and increasing patient care time. This refined process will definitely improve patient outcomes and satisfaction,” Porter explained.

Home care offices will remain in several communities, including DuBois and Clearfield.

Another benefit is an investment in new electronic medical record software and laptops for home care. This technology will enable the staff and nurses to better communicate with each other, track patient outcomes more efficiently and improve timeliness of documentation, all of which improve patient safety, Porter said.

Other objectives of coming together include maintaining a common quality standard, sharing best practices and establishing a new palliative care program.

As for staffing, Porter acknowledged that several back office positions have been reduced through attrition, meaning that vacated positions were eliminated if the position was no longer needed.

On that note, she emphasized that the agency’s more than 300 direct care workers – nurses, therapists, aides, personal care assistants and social workers – will be retained.

“The same clinicians will continue to serve patients and clients in the communities they are currently serving. In fact, as we grow, we expect to add more clinicians to our staff,” Porter stated.

Services provided by Penn Highlands Community Nurses are: nursing, social work, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, nutritional therapy, aides, telehealth services, palliative care nursing, hospice nursing, chaplain, volunteers, bereavement, homemaker and personal care services. The system’s home care staff care for 1,200 patients or more across the region each day. 

The agency’s coverage area includes all of Elk, Cameron, McKean, Jefferson, Clearfield, Potter, Forest, Cambria, Blair and Mifflin counties, and parts of Clarion, Armstrong,   Indiana, Cambria, Blair, Centre, Clinton, Venango, Warren, Huntington and Bedford counties.

Steven M. Fontaine, chief executive officer for Penn Highlands Healthcare, sees a bright future for not only the system’s unified home care team, but for its patients.

“The home health and hospice organizations in our healthcare system are known for professionalism and quality, as well as a compassionate, patient-focused approach to care. Bringing them together as one will further enhance patient care, which is our top priority,” he said.