The healthcare industry is often focused on retaining the status quo, but Lou Pascuzzi says that instead of taking the easy route it should be trying to instil change. As the CEO of TLC Healthcare, he isn’t afraid to shake things up, and he is making it his business to take action to improve the sector for the better. Under the TLC banner there are three sub-brands: TLC Aged Care, TLC Primary Care, and TLC Learning. Each one is making a difference in its own way, which then impacts on the others and creates integrated change.
Lou has worked in professional services for the past twenty-two years, eighteen of those in senior roles with large healthcare companies. A solid amount of time in the industry means he has a great understanding of its role within society and what changes need to be made for its future prosperity. According to Lou, healthcare may have evolved over the years, however there is still a lot of work to do.
“There have been material changes in the industry during my time, including deregulation of, and changes to, the funding regimes of the pathology, radiology, pharmaceutical, and private health insurance sectors,” Lou says. “This has obviously affected the private hospital sector as well.
Leading an industry
“There have also been changes, with less material effect, on both the aged care and primary care industries. The Living Longer Living Better reforms were introduced into the aged care industry two years ago and, despite there being a great deal of noise in the primary care sector over the past five years, the only real change affecting the industry has been the freeze on indexation. These are two areas that are now being focused on and I anticipate will continue to be a key focus for both regulatory and funding changes over the next two Federal Government terms.”
Lou has his own strong opinions on where he believes the industry needs to be heading, and on what changes he would like to see implemented. Firstly, he shares that the aged care and primary care sectors are heavily reliant on government funding, which is perhaps the wrong approach. “As the demand for financial support grows, conducive to population ageing and growth, it will result in an operational environment which is commercially untenable,” he says. “The current operational and funding disconnection among the main sectors of acute, primary, and aged care results in significant financial wastage. Operational inefficiencies and barriers to effective communication between health professionals and patients will contribute to higher levels of clinical risk and unsustainable commercial outcomes.
“It’s time for bipartisan government support to identify robust solutions for an integrated Australian healthcare platform, with input from a small group of representative stakeholders from each of the healthcare sectors. The areas of focus should be: the funding regime; an interconnected operational platform; the use of clinical and commercial IT systems that efficiently interface across each sector; and a multi-skilled workforce where training is relative to all sectors, for example, nursing.”
The benefits of this, Lou continues, will be large. It will promote funding and service efficiencies within the sector, elevate the levels of service quality, improve resource and facility management, and provide greater access to services. Furthermore, it will maximize clinical outcomes, minimise clinical errors, reduce hospital admissions, and ease the demand on ambulance services.
“It’s disappointing that there’s a great deal of talk in the market about integration as a solution to a more cohesive and sustainable healthcare system; but not a great deal of concentrated effort to form a solution. We still have each sector focusing on their own agenda within a current regulatory, funding, and operational environment that is fundamentally flawed.”
It’s time for bipartisan government support to identify robust solutions for an integrated Australian healthcare platform.
Integration of primary care medical centres into residential aged care homes
At TLC Healthcare, Lou has several key areas he is currently focusing on to ensure the business prospers, independent from whatever might be happening outside in the external environment. The first is to expand the organisation’s services. In aged care, TLC is now providing a multi-faceted community service rather than just residential care. “We’ve done this by bringing together — or integrating — aged care and my other area of expertise, which is primary care,” Lou explains. “TLC now has primary care medical centres integrated into our residential aged care homes. The TLC model has advantages for our residents, our medical professionals, and the local community.
“When I entered the residential aged care sector two-and-a-half years ago I found that people living in residential aged care may not always be receiving adequate medical supervision. General practitioners and other medical service providers were becoming less interested in visiting aged care homes. They felt that the Medicare benefits did not compensate them for the travel and the time away from their practices. TLC’s community health hubs provide an innovative solution for this problem.
“The community health hubs that we have integrated into our aged care homes provide primary medical care to both our residents and the wider community. The hubs provide a range of services including general practitioners, chronic disease management nursing, physiotherapists, pathology collection, telehealth, rehabilitation in purpose-built gymnasiums, prescription delivery services, retail health outlets, as well as other allied health services, such as podiatry and dietetics. In some homes we are also able to provide hydrotherapy in our indoor heated pools.
“The TLC model provides professional, clinical, integrated care to our valued residents when they need it — not when a general practitioner is able to visit. We have also greatly reduced the need to place the delicate care needs of our valued residents in the hands of a locum. Since its inception, the TLC model has proven to minimise clinical risk, minimise clinical errors and maximise clinical outcomes. It has also significantly reduced ambulance call-outs and hospital admissions by having general practitioners on hand. Now imagine the alleviation of pressure on our healthcare system if this innovative model was adopted across the sector.”
TLC has successfully opened these innovative community health hubs at its residential aged care homes in Noble Park, Donvale, Belmont in Geelong, Frankston North, and Altona North.
It also has plans to integrate hubs into the balance of its existing homes at Hallam, Whittlesea, and Wallington over the next twelve months, as part of larger brownfield developments.
TLC’s homes friendlier, welcoming of family
The second area of focus is to make TLC’s homes friendlier and more conducive to children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, families, and the local community who might be visiting their loved ones. To achieve this it has introduced new facilities such as cafés, playgrounds, and virtual reality cinemas, as well as expanded its resident lifestyle activities program — which is a critical service in the residential aged care space.
Growing demand for people to remain in their community
Finally, Lou will continue to prioritise the investment into TLC’s integrated healthcare platform. “Apart from the already mentioned two major brownfield developments at our Hallam and Wallington sites, we have also committed to building two large greenfield developments at Clifton Hill and Armstrong Creek,” he explains. “Our four major brownfield and greenfield projects will provide quality health and aged care services to an additional 490 permanent residents. It will also provide wider access to healthcare services in the local communities. Our integration and development pipeline activities represents a $120 million investment in Australian primary and aged care.
“Our Clifton Hill development will be Australia’s first ten-level residential aged care home and community health hub. There is a growing demand from people wanting to avail themselves of aged care services in areas they’ve lived most of their lives, rather than being displaced to areas where infrastructure has been built, motivated by cheaper land.”
Why a talented workforce is worth nuturing
Lou believes the success of TLC has been largely due to having a talented workforce, all of whom are aligned with the same, strong, business culture. The business promotes and maintains this mindset in a number of ways, including reward and recognition strategies for staff, job empowerment and investment in upskilling through TLC Learning, transparency, state-of-the-art working environments, and health promotion programs.
The community health hubs that we have integrated into our aged care homes provide primary medical care to both our residents and the wider community
“A working example is the importance we place on the health and wellbeing of staff and residents which is integral to TLC’s culture of integrated care,” Lou shares. “Keeping our residents fit and healthy is TLC’s highest priority, but it is also important that our staff are focused on their own wellbeing so they can provide the level of care our residents expect. To encourage our staff and residents to lead a healthy lifestyle, state-of-the-art gymnasiums have been integrated into our homes. Membership of TLC Health Clubs is provided free to our staff and residents, along with personalised fitness programs to ensure they achieve the maximum benefits these hi-tech gyms offer. In conjunction with TLC’s ‘100 Days of Health’ corporate health promotion program, this is a great way for TLC’s staff and residents to interact and focus on their health, promoting active lifestyle choices.”
Then there are the suppliers, who are seen as an extension to the employee base and culture. “They are critical to our service provision,” Lou notes. “Where possible we include our suppliers in our cultural initiatives, resulting in integrated internal relationships and consistent levels of service output between staff and supplier-provided services.”
TLC’s overarching vision
TLC’s overarching vision is to be the leaders in innovative and integrated healthcare, and to be renowned for providing wellbeing to the communities it operates in. Its core values reflect this also. The first is respect, to value diversity and treat each other with courtesy and care. Then there’s accountability, which is about everyone being responsible for their own actions, or inactions. Excellence means the team always strive to be the best in all that they do, while collaboration is to encourage working together to achieve shared outcomes.
The final two are: Integrity — to act with honesty, openness and professionalism; and innovation — to embrace new ideas and seek creative solutions.
While Lou has achieved so much with TLC already, he feels he has a lot more to offer to the Australian healthcare space. And through his work with the organisation he will see what revolutionary changes he can bring about for the betterment of not only the industry, but also for society at large.