Karen Gomes

This spring, Karen Gomes was named president and CEO of the Home Health Foundation. Prior to her appointment, she served at the foundation’s chief clinical officer. Gomes’ undergraduate experience started with finance, management and liberal arts. She eventually changed course and entered the nursing program at New York’s Regents College. In 1994, she earned a master’s degree from UMass Boston.

In the 25 years since Gomes began work in the health care industry, much has changed. The work of a wide array of health care providers has become aligned, with an increased focus on collaboration. Hospitals now must look beyond their own walls to provide patient-centered care. Due to a number of external factors — from government regulation to insurance to changes in technology — there has been a shift from a focus on the volume of patients served to the quality of care those patients receive.

“These days, there’s an emphasis on partnering. There is less of the attitude that doctors know best,” says Gomes. Education’s role in health care has become critical as a means to help people take great stake in their own well-being.

The risk these days, Gomes notes, is that patients receive “fractured care” when partnered organizations use incompatible technology or fail to communicate properly with each other. That’s something Home Health Foundation must remain vigilant about, given that they provide help to an unusually broad segment of the population. Many foundations of its type focus on one demographic, such as the elderly. In contrast to that, HHF works with everyone from nursing mothers to young people struggling with addiction. Within that wide scope, patients often require help for multiple issues, creating that need for collaboration and a patient-centered model.

For example, their behavioral health team might treat one patient for a primary psychiatric disorder while he or she is still being treated for a progressive chronic disease, and they may refer the patient to an external specialist in cases where HHF’s own resources are limited.

Photos by Tory Germann, courtesy Home Health Foundation.

Another particularly relevant example of this model of care is in its implementation during the ongoing opioid crisis: organizations like Home Health Foundation have found themselves not just working with recovering addicts, but, in some cases, their children and the rest of their families as well. Through it all, Gomes’ warning about fractured care remains critical. The providing organizations must make sure that the proper technology is used in the proper way. Without clear communication within this complex network, patients risk not getting the care they need.

If the demographics are broad in terms of the ages and symptoms of patients Home Health Foundation treats, their reach in the area is even more extensive. The foundation serves over 100 cities and towns in northeastern Massachusetts, the Merrimack Valley and southern New Hampshire. That’s where the partnerships come in, allowing HHF to provide care to such a large section of New England: Lawrence General Hospital, Holy Family Hospital in Methuen and Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport are among the organization’s most frequently-utilized collaborators. In addition, Merrimack Valley Hospice, partnering with Maine’s York Hospital, provides comprehensive end-of-life care and bereavement services in southern Maine.

Of course, partnerships with outside organizations alone do not make for good health care. Gomes emphasizes the importance of collaborating and communicating with patients themselves, as well as their families, to promote awareness of their health trajectories and optimize outcomes.

To learn more about the Home Health Foundation, visit its website at HomeHealthFoundation.org.

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