Fleece takes the helm as CEO of Empath Well being and launches the One Hospice initiative

Jonathan Fleece is the newly appointed CEO of Florida-based nonprofit Empath Health after his predecessor Rafael Scuillo retired earlier this week.

Empath provides hospice, home care, primary care, palliative care, PACE, AIDS and sexual wellness care, and adult day care services to more than 23,000 individuals. The organization is the parent company of 17 subsidiaries and two philanthropic foundations.

Fleece joined Empath through its merger with Stratum Health in 2020, where he was CEO. The son of a nurse and a minister, said he learned the importance of ministry early in life.

“I really grew up in healthcare and it has always impressed me. We were a service family and it was just a wonderful sector,” Fleece told Hospice News. “If it really matters what brought me to the hospice, I tell the story that the hospice really found me. I was not looking for a hospice.”

Empathic HealthJonathan Fleece, CEO of Empath Health

Fleece began his career as a healthcare attorney. In 2011, he co-authored The New Age: The Future of Health Care in America with futurist David Houle, in which he explored how the system might evolve over the coming years.

But what drew him to hospice was the bereavement care he and his family received after a loss. This led to him becoming a hospice volunteer and later a board member at Tidewell Hospice in Florida, now a subsidiary of Empath. Over time, his healthcare career began to take a new direction.

Like Fleece, Tidewell, a former Stratum subsidiary, came into Empath with the merger. Empath also offers hospice care through Suncoast Hospice, Empath Hospice, Hospice of Marion County, and Suncoast Hospice of Hillsborough.

Among Fleece’s priorities as he takes over the helm is the organization’s One Empath, One Hospice initiative, which is launching this year.

“In order for us to achieve both the quality and service outcomes we strive for, and to achieve our financial strength, we must evolve toward ‘One Hospice’ as a strategic imperative,” Fleece said. “This is basically standard that standardizes our delivery models, our support services and our infrastructure (e.g. EMR systems). This is also at the top of Agenda 2023.”

The initiative will not involve a rebranding of the old subsidiaries, Fleece told Hospice News.

But hospice won’t be the new CEO’s only area of ​​focus. The company is working with 10 other post-acute care providers to form the Accountable Care Organization (ACO) Responsive Care Partners, including several hospice and palliative care providers.

Empath has also increased its investments in care models such as PACE and adult day services. In November last year, it opened a new adult day center, including a range of veteran-specific services.

The company’s subsidiary, Suncoast, acquired its PACE program in 2012, prior to the formation of Empath in 2014. Under Empath’s wing, the program continued to grow.

“Healthcare has historically just been so fragmented, isolated and uncoordinated. It increases the cost. It reduces the results. It makes the patient experience far from ideal,” Fleece said. “It kind of circles back to what empath and lifelong care really are, to bring healthcare closer together and get better with care coordination and care navigation and get better outcomes at a lower cost.”

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