Encore platform could offer relief to COPD patients

Encore Healthcare is headquartered in Overton County.
Gantt.

LIVINGSTON – Family dinners in the Gantt household are often all business. Quite literally. Zach Gantt says you’ll hear less talk about religion and politics and more chit chat about health care, instead.

That’s probably not surprising. The Gantt name has been synonymous with the respiratory sector for three decades or more. Zach Gantt is the latest to follow in those footsteps, a respiratory therapist, and now CEO of Overton County headquartered Encore Healthcare, which plans to drastically change the way respiratory patients are managed over the next few years.

“This is just what I’ve always known,” he said. His father and uncle started their first business in 1984 and successfully started and sold three companies over the years. Encore, which is housed on the square in downtown Livingston, is itself the culmination of multiple entrepreneurial efforts Gantt has made, also in the respiratory field.

Encore’s goal is to better manage patients with COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, which affects an estimated 30 million people in the U.S.

“This is just what I’ve always known.” – Zach Gantt

To do so, Encore is now scaling across the country after acquiring software it jointly built over the last 12-18 months. Encore partnered with Nashville-based Evermind, Inc. to develop Nexus, a care management platform. Encore finalized the software acquisition in late November.

Encore Healthcare is headquartered in Overton County.

“It’s a very unique model,” Gantt said. “Respiratory therapists aren’t paid anywhere except in the hospital, which is one of the reasons COPD is so poorly managed. If you had a loved one with COPD, they’re basically on their own (outside of the hospital setting), unless they got equipment, and if they got equipment, a respiratory therapist would come to your home, but now, the reimbursement’s been cut so much, that’s not possible anymore. There’s no access. But we’ve figured a way around that, to get paid for outcomes and reducing cost.

“We’ve got a network of respiratory companies across the country that want to get out of the equipment business and into the services or outcomes business, so we basically license the software and our services to help them diversify,” he said.

Using Nexus, a clinician – using a laptop, tablet or smartphone – can conduct a patient assessment, whether in a rehab center, skilled nursing facility or patient home, and, from there, create an individualized plan of care that targets any identified weakness, for example, healthy eating, medication management or exercise. The clinician is more focused on educating the patient, Gantt said; and like in a video game, the patient can also earn badges for improvement.

This way, patients learn the skills they need to self manage their disease. There’s a support structure in place if action is necessary.

And the main goal? Keeping them out of the ER.

“It’s about driving better self management for patients, but also giving them the confidence in managing their disease, and understanding what to do in an exacerbation,” which often can land them at a hospital’s front door.

“And the software also creates analytics, and we can look at a whole population of patients or individual patients, and we can track things like how many hospital admission they had,” Gantt said. “For an insurance company, we can give them information they don’t have access to from claims data. Or a hospital system, because now, hospitals are getting penalized for readmissions, and they’re having focus on what happens outside of their four walls. That’s not something they’ve had to do in the past.”

Gantt said Encore is in early stages of launching the program – they’re partnering with facilities from Nashville to East Tennessee – so there’s not yet data on savings, although similar programs in the past reduced costs by 80 percent and readmissions by more than 70 percent. Encore is backed by a “dream team” of experts in the COPD space. And while COPD is “the most complicated to manage,” Gantt said, the platform could be used to manage other conditions.

“It’s really connecting the pieces together,” he said.