Profile: Integrity Home Healthcare

Profile

Integrity Home Healthcare

By Christina M. White

TRAVERSE CITY – Integrity Home Health Care of Northern Michigan recently received the Chamber of Commerce's coveted 2011 Small Business of the Year Award.

Tammy Tarsa, owner and head nurse, says the award a complete surprise. "We worked hard on the application," she says, "but I never thought we'd win. There were nine other fabulous businesses [named to the Top Ten]."

"It's extremely validating," she adds; however, she still thinks of Integrity Home Health Care as a "small, home-grown business" in an industry that is lesser known by the general public.

The TCBN sat down with Tarsa to talk about her winning business, and the challenges of home health care – and those who need it.

HISTORY

Integrity Home Health Care originated under Jan Slater in 2003; Slater called the company Integrity Individual Care, and today this remains the company's licensed title.

In 2007, Tammy Tarsa came on board. She says she was thrilled to find a high-quality health care organization with business hours that complimented her children's school schedules. Tarsa's belief in the benefits of home health prompted her to buy the company in 2008. She renamed it Integrity Home Health Care of Northern Michigan and set forward with its No. 1 mission: protecting their clients' ability to live at home.

"More than anything, people want to be independent; there is a certain amount of self-worth when people can remain in their homes," says Tarsa. "Studies show that [at home] there are fewer medical errors, fewer falls, and people are safer and more comfortable in their own homes."

HOW IT WORKS

Tarsa is owner, administrator, and one of two head nurses for Integrity. Working in conjunction with the other head nurse, Simone Kanz, Tarsa sees one to three clients a day. These visits often are often intake assessments, which may include meeting family and checking the home for chairs, rugs, or other obstructions that are potentially dangerous to the client's safety. During these initial visits, she also performs clinical duties such as checking the client's vital signs and discussing a care plan.

"Clients are always so grateful when we visit," Tarsa says. "They treat us as a guest in their home and often tell stories about the 'old days.' I always leave feeling better than when I arrived."

Integrity not only provides medical assistance, it offers home health aids who are trained to care for people in their homes. In order for elderly or disabled individuals to remain at home, they must keep up their health, as well as the day-to-day tasks of domestic life; therefore, staff members service clients by administering medication, checking blood pressure, or even taking out the trash and getting the mail.

"Oftentimes, home health aids are certified or trained, but sometimes they simply come to us with experience taking care of a loved one," says Tarsa, explaining that Integrity provides additional training to these types of employees.

THE FUTURE

With 75 trained employees on staff and hundreds of clients, managing and scheduling can be exceptionally difficult, but Tarsa isn't daunted. In fact, she's undergoing the process to be named a Skilled Nursing Facility, which will enable Integrity to provide care to Medicaid patients.

"We've received approval on a federal level, but we are still waiting for one piece of paper from the state; then, they'll call in surveyors," says Tarsa.

She hopes that by the end of 2011 or the beginning of 2012, Integrity will be servicing both skilled care and private duty patients.

The organization plans to see its skilled care and private duty services compliment each other in a practical way. "Larger companies will tell you there are Medicare/Medicaid cuts happening and that more are still coming," says Tarsa. "But the wave of the future is fewer patients with the funds to pay for private duty."

To remain viable, Tarsa says it's imperative that Integrity must obtain its Skilled Nursing Facility certification. "Right now, if we have a private duty client that goes into the hospital and comes out needing skilled care, we lose them," she says.

With a skilled nursing certification, Integrity will be able to follow clients into the hospital and care for them afterward as well.

"This provides continuity of care," says Tarsa. The certification will also enable Integrity to service patients who are transitioning out of skilled care but need private duty services.

"It's a huge expense and a lot of work, but I think we can do it," she says.

Bureaurocratic red tape aside, Integrity Home Health Care's central mission is to give people hope. "When people get older, we take away their keys, then their home, and soon they begin to despair. By keeping them in the home, we give them that feeling of self-worth and validate the fact that they are important," she says. "These people have so much to offer us, and it's so easy to look to technology rather than talking to people and hearing what they have to say."

For Tammy Tarsa, Integrity Home Health Care's service in the greater Grand Traverse region is tremendously personal.

"This community means a lot to me, so I hope I can give back and support it," she says. BN

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