When John Ahearn came to Fieldhome to take the reins as its new CEO six years ago, he did so after many years spent on the acute care side of the healthcare industry. Along with time spent at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City, Ahearn worked for 21 years at the Hospital for Special Surgery and served as its president and CEO for his last nine years. He says being well-versed in the challenges and needs of acute care hospitals has served him in that he can guide his facility to anticipate the needs of the discharging hospitals, as well as the needs of their patients, particularly as they relate to short term rehab at the facility.
“Having the first hand experience of acute care and its level of intensity requires skilled nursing facilities, such as ours, to also provide a level of care that raises the level to that of a sub-acute environment,” he says.
Located on a 96-acre campus in Cortlandt Manor, N.Y., Fieldhome has been providing care to the community since 1879. The skilled nursing facility, known as Field Home-Holy Comforter, is comprised of 200 skilled nursing beds, 50 of which are devoted to short-term rehab which encompasses a 1500 square foot rehab treatment center. The remaining 150 beds are dedicated to long-term skilled nursing care. Also located on the campus is The Seabury at Fieldhome, an 80-bed assisted living residence that includes a memory support residence for residents with dementia. The organization also operates an Early Learning Center for children up to five years old.
Ahearn says his prior experience has helped make Fieldhome a regional leader in short-term rehabilitative care. The facility is dedicated to aggressive seven-day therapy with an expectation to meet high-quality clinical outcomes. “When you look at our rehabilitative program, I think there are very few facilities that can compete with the level and intensity of care that we provide here.” Ahearn says Fieldhome’s focus continues to be on providing the best possible care, whether short- or long-term care. “The reality is, it’s the quality of care you provide and the personal level of attention you give to each patient that establishes your reputation as a leader in the field.”
Ahearn says Fieldhome’s patient care philosophy is based on a person-centered model of care – care that recognizes the individuality of each patient or resident.
When asked about his management style, Ahearn says his leadership style involves a lot of hands-on activity and direct communication with all levels of staff. “From my perspective it is very important to be clear about your goals and objectives,” he says. “You need to be straight forward and sure that everybody’s on the same page and everybody’s moving in the same direction with the same purpose.”
Having a unity of purpose is crucial for any healthcare organization, but Fieldhome needs to be especially focused as it prepares to make some big changes in the coming years. Ahearn says that declining reimbursement in New York has made it increasingly difficult for Fieldhome to maintain its current balance of services. “Trying to foresee the changes coming to healthcare is very difficult and being prepared to adapt is critical. If we are going to survive, we as an organization will need to change and be prepared to rebalance ourselves so as to remain financially viable.”
Fieldhome, like many other skilled nursing facilities, is consistently trying to meet the challenges of balancing expenses against revenues and reimbursements. Over the years, Fieldhome has worked at keeping costs down while preserving the quality of care. Ahearn says the organization always is trying to find ways to be more efficient and cost effective. However, nearly 70 percent of an organization’s costs are related to staffing, and therefore it must be vigilant to assure that proper staffing levels are maintained to preserve quality care. “You have to look at everything, you have to be sure you’re doing everything in the most cost-efficient fashion,” he says. “[But] at some point, there are irreducible minimums.”
The organization is planning to address the challenges ahead with an ambitious repositioning plan that will affect the entire Fieldhome campus over the next several years. Ahearn says the organization plans to expand its campus to include an independent living facility with nearly 100 units and to downsize its skilled care facility to be more in balance with actual community needs. “What we’re looking to do is reposition ourselves to provide a continuum of care that includes independent living, skilled nursing, rehab and assisted living care,” he says. “The concept is to create a full service community which addresses the full needs of our elderly population. By achieving this goal we will preserve our mission.”