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Stowell Associates is not a large home care company, but it is a unique company, so unique that its new co-owner and CEO calls it a “unicorn”.

Chip Measells and a group of private investors recently bought Stowell from co-founders Phyllis Brostoff and Valerie Stefanich for an undisclosed price, and Measells took on the role of president and CEO.

Measells started his career in investment banking before purchasing an adult daycare business, to which he added home health, home care and rehabilitation. After selling that company, he started investment bank Wyatt Matas in 2003. This Charlottesville, Virginia-based company specializing in home care transactions, so Measells saw the inner workings of various companies. As a result, he had a clear idea of ​​what he was looking for when he decided to leave the “transactional” routine of banking and get back to operations.

However, the process was not easy.

“I … watched a ton of [home care] companies and couldn’t find the right fit culturally or in terms of size, and nothing different, ”he told Home Health Care News. “So, I thought I was looking for a unicorn and turned my attention elsewhere.”

But executives at Stowell Associates read one of Measell’s white papers and reached out to him, and the building blocks for the acquisition. Milwaukee-based Stowell was the right size, with a modest service area limited to the city of Wisconsin and surrounding areas. It also has a privately-paid business model that combines home care with managed care services, and a culture that strongly values ​​individual caregivers.

Now Measells and his wife are moving to Milwaukee (pictured above), and he’s executing a strategy to bring additional sophistication and scale to Stowell.

Beyond the concierge

Stowell Associates started in 1983 as a care management company, but Brostoff and Stefanich found they were referring many patients to home care. They have also started to offer these services. Today, about half of Stowell’s clients only receive care management and the other half receive mixed home care and management, Measells said.

Other companies in the home care industry also claim to offer “managed care,” but Stowell’s offering is much more robust than usual, he said.

“Think about a spectrum of managed care,” he said. “One end is the janitor [services], making sure clients have everything they need at home, and a lot of times that isn’t really done by a professional care manager, it’s just someone in the office. There are a lot of them there. “

Stowell, on the other hand, does a lot more “heavy lifting,” he said. Usually, the management of care begins with an acute event, and Stowell helps the patient stabilize the immediate situation, and then interfaces with all stakeholders involved in the case, including the hospital, doctors, rehabilitation providers and others. the pharmacy. In addition, the company addresses underlying issues such as the safety of the patient’s home environment and the provision of social supports, and its home care offering may come into play for clients who need care. this level of assistance.

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Registered nurses and social workers with master’s degrees are employed as the company’s care managers, and they also oversee Stowell’s home caregivers. Because care managers are also on the front line working with clients, this structure creates more immediate oversight and support for caregivers than trying to manage them from the office, Measells said, adding that it is. one of the reasons for a turnover rate of 27.5%. That’s 75% below the industry average of around 66%, according to Measells. Stowell also retains customers for about 32 months on average, compared to the industry standard of 10 months.

Reforms to the Affordable Care Act 2010 have increased the need for coordination of care between providers, so care management has become an increasingly attractive capability not only to clients but also to care providers. reference to finding a home care partner. Yet other home care companies have not emulated the Stowell approach for several reasons, according to Measell.

Stowell started on the care management side, so he had that infrastructure in place before adding the home care part; if companies try to add care management to existing home care services, they tend to go for the simpler concierge approach that does not require such robust capabilities. Then sometimes they basically give those services rather than charging them appropriately.

“[Stowell’s founders] approached it from the perspective of what we do as care managers is valuable and the family is going to pay for it, ”Measells said.

The current billing rate is around $ 30 per hour, although this can vary depending on factors such as weekends. At this rate, the company can afford to pay its workforce well. Although he declined to cite a specific pay rate for caregivers, Measells said it was 30% to 40% above the market, and Stowell also offers health insurance and benefits such as a 401k match. .

Next steps

After officially taking over the reins of Stowell Associates in December, Measells began to embrace an expansion plan.

One of the key elements is investment in technology. Stowell already has an effective care management platform, Measells said, but it needs an upgrade to become more mobile-friendly and integrated with planning software.

He also plans to invest in business intelligence, highlighting the rich mine of data the company has had over its decades in business. Now this information can be analyzed to improve workflows and for predictive analytics.

Expanding the service area is also a goal, starting around Milwaukee. Stowell has offices on the east and north sides of the city and is now in the process of opening an office for the western suburbs of Brookfield and Waukesha. This is already staffed and will open in May, Measells said. There are also plans to open an office in Mount Pleasant, about 30 miles south of downtown Milwaukee. The timeline is for it to be fully staffed by August or September.

Next, plans are to continue expanding branches throughout Wisconsin, Measells said.

Stowell faces some of the same challenges as other home businesses in scaling up, including tight job markets and a shortage of caregivers. But Measells points to the higher rate of pay offered by Stowell, along with its differentiated business model, as crucial benefits.

“So many small businesses are all saying they are doing the same thing, and for families everything is alike, we all look alike,” he said. “Really trying to find a differentiator so that you can charge a premium and pay caregivers more is hard to do… that’s what I really enjoyed about Stowell. “

Written by Tim mullaney

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