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McGuire Group partnership includes high-tech unit to reduce readmissions

One of the region’s major nursing home groups plans to sell a minority stake to another long-term care company in a deal that includes the introduction here of a high-tech unit for monitoring patients to avoid readmissions to the hospital.

The arrangement involves VestraCare taking a 19.8 percent stake in The McGuire Group, which manages seven nursing facilities, including Garden Gate in Cheektowaga and Harris Hill in Williamsville. VestraCare operates three nursing facilities in the state, including the Chautauqua Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Dunkirk.

VestraCare manages a trademarked Telistat Restorative Care Unit at its Golden Hill skilled nursing facility in Kingston. It is an 18-bed unit for recovering patients discharged from hospitals that features technology for around-the-clock monitoring of vital signs.

The McGuire Group, as part of the $8 million to $9 million investment, will offer VestraCare management expertise in such areas as billing and electronic medical records.

“Both companies have a similar philosophy, and both of us are caring for higher-acuity patients trying to get the best outcomes as cost-effectively as possible. This cements our relationship,” said F. James McGuire, chief executive officer of The McGuire Group.

“We have an opportunity to use what I think is revolutionary technology, and VestraCare gets to further prove the technology. We have consulted for them in the past, and they now also get access to our operational skill set," he said.

Many older patients are not ready to go home when they leave the hospital from heart problems, diabetes and procedures like hip replacements and, instead, are transferred to post-acute rehabilitation centers. Many patients return to the hospital within 30 days of discharge because of complications that arise, yet medical authorities estimate that 20 percent of those readmissions could be avoided. Although relatively new, the restorative care unit at Golden Hill has kept avoidable readmissions to less than 5 percent of patients, officials said.

The unit uses noninvasive real‐time monitoring with a wearable telemetry device and telemedicine monitors with the goal of reducing readmissions and lengths of stay. Patient data is constantly collected, stored in a secure cloud-based information system and displayed on monitors at the nurses’ stations. This enables alerts, reports, and immediate action before issues develop, officials said. The technology also can be used to remotely monitor patients after they return home.

"This is wristband Wi-Fi that picks up nuances of the changes in a patient's condition," said McGuire. "It's technology that is achieving outstanding results."

Medicare penalizes hospitals for readmissions within 30 days of patient discharge, and legislation calls for penalties to apply to both hospitals and skilled nursing facilities in 2018.

McGuire will roll out the unit next year first at at its facility in Brookhaven in East Patchogue, and then at Garden Gate.  As more employees are hired, the unit will be expanded to the group's other facilities -- Autumn View in Hamburg,  Autumn Woods in Warren, Mich., Harris Hill in Williamsville, Northgate in North Tonawanda, and Seneca in West Seneca, officials said.

Edward Farbenblum, one of the owners of VestraCare, will also serve as an officer and director of McGuire. As part of the deal, Stephen Mercurio, president of McGuire, will expand from three to six the number of McGuire facilities in which he has an ownership stake.

The transactions require approval by the state Health Department.

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