If Norman Rockwell were alive today, he would have painted a stethoscope-draped Dr. James Kearney, donning a white medical coat and a smile, ready to lean in and chat.
Internal medicine specialist and medical director for Visiting Nurse Association (VNA), Dr. Kearney emphasizes health care is about seeing the individual and putting the ‘person’ in personable. “If it comes from your heart as much as your head, you’ll succeed in medicine today.” Nothing could be more reassuring than a pallet of expertise blended perfectly with this understanding of the human element.
Out of the Cold
With a 20-year medical practice and an established VNA partnership in Pennsylvania, Dr. Kearney and his family decided to relocate to the Sunshine State, and specifically Melbourne, Florida.
“We were just tired of the snow, and the cost of living in Florida was appealing. I knew before settling into a new practice that I’d want a home health care partner. I have a passion to belong. I thought, ‘let me call the VNA,’” he explained.
Under Dr. Kearney’s leadership, VNA’s presence is increasing in Brevard County. In addition to private care, more and more area rehabilitation centers, facilities and physicians are currently utilizing the home health care services of VNA.
Prevention is Key
How important is the role of home health care in medicine today?
Dr. Kearney shares some important insights: “It’s very significant. Cost is on everyone’s mind, across the United States, within the echoes of congress, cost is an insurmountable problem. The highest cost event [for most people] is hospitalization, so there’s an emphasis on how we prevent that, and, even more so, how we prevent rehospitalization.
Being readmitted to the hospital is demoralizing, defeating and it’s an emotionally-draining experience; therefore, we focus on prevention. There is definitely a certain cost to home health care; however, that cost is far exceeded by a single hospital stay – home health care is a good investment.”
Think of it as a partnership among patients, families and professionals. It starts with building a relationship and establishing trust. It’s about communication, reliability and a focus on prevention. Proactive measures facilitated with support, such as education and training, have had a significant positive impact: private residences are safer, patients heal and understand how to manage chronic illness and they understand what do to when an emergency occurs.
Partnership starts with a Nurse
With home health care, the first point of contact is a nurse, not the ER. It’s this partnership that continues to reassure patients, especially amid Covid-19 circumstances. It may be surprising, but, according to Dr. Kearney, Covid-19 has actually had a positive effect on the medical community. Because there has been a decline in office visits and a decline in home health patients, both doctors and patients are utilizing video conferencing and phone consultations. Of course, the office visit will always be a mainstay. A medical practice is hands-on, requiring physical evaluation. Dr. Kearney believes in bridging the gap; patients are offered good old-fashion phone calls as well as video conferencing appointments.
“It’s been a fabulous tool for communication. My patients can discuss symptoms, medications, side effects, new symptoms and I can answer questions. I feel like I have more opportunity to care for the whole person.”
Being one of VNA’s greatest cheerleaders, Dr. Kearney expounded on the use of telehealth: “Telehealth is different altogether for VNA. Telehealth means patients have equipment in their home to document blood pressure, blood sugar, pulse, weight and oxygen level. All this information can be transmitted electronically to their nurse. If a patient is nervous about a symptom or condition, they can research it. I really like it because it empowers patients.”
By staggering appointments and maintaining very strict policies and procedures for sanitizing, patients are slowly returning to the office and feel more confident keeping home health appointments.
Commitment to Excellence
On a personal note, Dr. Kearney’s sphere of influence is far reaching. He’s the medical director for ACO (Accountable Care Organization), a group of physicians focused on reducing Medicare costs while increasing quality of care. They share quality of care indicators working to establish standards. For example, they are working on defining super high-quality care, defining preventative care and determining how that care will be delivered.
As medical director for Visiting Nurse Association, the vision is two-fold. “We are focused on growing our presence and staying out in front of our community. Physicians are learning firsthand how Visiting Nurse Association is set apart. Because we’re a non-profit, there are no shareholders. If there’s anything left over at the end of the year, it goes directly to patient care, telehealth systems, equipment and additional staff.
“This is a very important distinction, giving the agency the opportunity to focus on what’s most important, the quality of care we offer. We’re here for our patients, not our bottom line.
In addition, other confidence measures we offer to our clients are training, mentorship and comprehensive background checks. VNA takes a lot of steps to ensure they hire the highest quality candidates to serve. There’s a trust factor making the VNA home health experience positive and rewarding for patients and families. It’s about the impact we make. There’s a difference and I’m glad to be part of it.”
The VNA is committed to providing trusted and quality private and home health care to Brevard County patients from Titusville to Barefoot Bay. For more information about VNA services, call 321-752-7550 or visit vnatc.com. •