December 15, 2017 | last updated December 15, 2017 1:20 pm
Five We Watched in 2017

Ricci helps HSC leverage higher profile into expanded services

Photo | HBJ File
Photo | HBJ File
Lynn Ricci in 2017 helped oversee the expansion of Hospital for Special Care's ALS medical staff and services.

Here is a look back at the five business, nonprofit and higher education leaders we watched in 2017.

The New Britain-based Hospital for Special Care continued to benefit from its affiliation with the Travelers Championship Golf Tournament in 2017, applying proceeds received as a primary beneficiary in 2016 to hire more specialty medical staff and receiving significant media exposure from its tournament-provided 18th-green hospitality tent for patients and families.

Specially equipped for wheelchair-bound patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the disease that claimed the life of former Travelers Cos. Chairman Jay Fishman, the tent's and tournament's accommodations for HSC patients were featured in media stories nationally, exposure valued at $29 million.

"It was actually a story within itself, just about accessibility at major sporting events," said Lynn Ricci, president and CEO of HSC.

HSC used its platform to talk about its ALS programs and others, Ricci said.

HSC used 2016 Travelers proceeds, which totaled $325,000 out of the $2.8 million the tournament raised that year, to hire a fourth neurologist this year, Dr. Sadaf Khorasanizadeh, and other staff. Khorasanizadeh works with ALS and Parkinson's disease patients, the latter growing in number at HSC. Hospital for Special Care also used proceeds to add another ALS medical assistant and therapy staff, and to expand social work services for additional patient support.

Tournament proceeds also supported training for other physicians outside HSC, which is working on a fellowship program in neuromuscular disease or neurology to train doctors to care for ALS patients in the future.

HSC hopes to create a similar fellowship for Parkinson's doctors, in part with a $1.2 million grant in July from the Maximilian E. & Marion O. Hoffman Foundation Inc. to build a National Parkinson Foundation Center of Excellence.

The grant will allow HSC to see more Parkinson's patients.

While donors have been gracious, Ricci remains concerned about state Medicaid reimbursements, which haven't increased in 10 years. About 75 percent of inpatient revenues are tied to Medicaid, but HSC's outpatient revenues come from a broader payer mix, which helps, Ricci said.

"Certainly, philanthropy has never been more important," she said.

HSC also hopes to gain more support for its autism program, a key focus. It opened an eight-bed inpatient unit in Dec. 2015 and has filled it almost every day since March 2016, she said.

HSC can't afford to expand its inpatient unit now, but is looking at the next best thing, a partial hospital program. A program would help people with autism whose condition is too severe for school programs or who cannot be discharged from the inpatient unit because of lack of community support, she said.

The partial hospital program, which is getting state support, would be an intensive short-term program to treat patients during the day before returning to their families at night, Ricci said.

"The reimbursement in that area at least is reasonable for us to be able to pursue that population and it's also paid for by commercial payers," Ricci said.

Hospital for Special Care can start a partial hospital program for about $1 million-plus versus perhaps $15 million-plus for an expanded inpatient unit, she said.

HSC also continues to weigh consulting other hospitals on establishing and managing their own autism programs, management agreements that could provide an additional revenue source.

Outpatient autism, ALS, Parkinson's and concussion programs contributed to more than 50,000 outpatient visits at HSC this year. HSC expects to expand its brain health services in 2018, including providing more services for Alzheimer's patients.

Read all Five We Watched profiles.

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