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Northampton home care consultants in growth spurt 

  • Bob Fazzi talks about his business, Fazzi and Associates, at his Northampton office Thursday. Gina Mazza, a partner and the director of data services, listens.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Bob Fazzi talks about his business, Fazzi and Associates, at his Northampton office Thursday. Gina Mazza, a partner and the director of data services, listens.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • JERREY ROBERTS<br/>Bob Fazzi talks about his business, Fazzi and Associates, at his Northampton office Thursday. Gina Mazza, a partner and the director of data services, listens.

    JERREY ROBERTS
    Bob Fazzi talks about his business, Fazzi and Associates, at his Northampton office Thursday. Gina Mazza, a partner and the director of data services, listens. Purchase photo reprints »

  • JERREY ROBERTS<br/>Lindsay Doak, director of marketing at Fazzi and Associates.

    JERREY ROBERTS
    Lindsay Doak, director of marketing at Fazzi and Associates. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Left Bob Fazzi and Gina Mazza during a staff meeting at Fazzi Associates Friday morning.<br/>CAROL LOLLIS

    Left Bob Fazzi and Gina Mazza during a staff meeting at Fazzi Associates Friday morning.
    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Left Bob Fazzi and Gina Mazza during a staff meeting at Fazzi Associates Friday morning.<br/>CAROL LOLLIS

    Left Bob Fazzi and Gina Mazza during a staff meeting at Fazzi Associates Friday morning.
    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Left Bob Fazzi and Gina Mazza during a staff meeting at Fazzi Associates Friday morning.<br/>CAROL LOLLIS

    Left Bob Fazzi and Gina Mazza during a staff meeting at Fazzi Associates Friday morning.
    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Left Bob Fazzi and Gina Mazza during a staff meeting at Fazzi Associates Friday morning.<br/>CAROL LOLLIS

    Left Bob Fazzi and Gina Mazza during a staff meeting at Fazzi Associates Friday morning.
    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Left Bob Fazzi and Gina Mazza during a staff meeting at Fazzi Associates Friday morning.<br/>CAROL LOLLIS

    Left Bob Fazzi and Gina Mazza during a staff meeting at Fazzi Associates Friday morning.
    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Left Bob Fazzi and Gina Mazza during a staff meeting at Fazzi Associates Friday morning.<br/>CAROL LOLLIS

    Left Bob Fazzi and Gina Mazza during a staff meeting at Fazzi Associates Friday morning.
    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Left Bob Fazzi and Gina Mazza during a staff meeting at Fazzi Associates Friday morning.<br/>CAROL LOLLIS

    Left Bob Fazzi and Gina Mazza during a staff meeting at Fazzi Associates Friday morning.
    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Bob Fazzi talks about his business, Fazzi and Associates, at his Northampton office Thursday. Gina Mazza, a partner and the director of data services, listens.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • JERREY ROBERTS<br/>Bob Fazzi talks about his business, Fazzi and Associates, at his Northampton office Thursday. Gina Mazza, a partner and the director of data services, listens.
  • JERREY ROBERTS<br/>Lindsay Doak, director of marketing at Fazzi and Associates.
  • Left Bob Fazzi and Gina Mazza during a staff meeting at Fazzi Associates Friday morning.<br/>CAROL LOLLIS
  • Left Bob Fazzi and Gina Mazza during a staff meeting at Fazzi Associates Friday morning.<br/>CAROL LOLLIS
  • Left Bob Fazzi and Gina Mazza during a staff meeting at Fazzi Associates Friday morning.<br/>CAROL LOLLIS
  • Left Bob Fazzi and Gina Mazza during a staff meeting at Fazzi Associates Friday morning.<br/>CAROL LOLLIS
  • Left Bob Fazzi and Gina Mazza during a staff meeting at Fazzi Associates Friday morning.<br/>CAROL LOLLIS
  • Left Bob Fazzi and Gina Mazza during a staff meeting at Fazzi Associates Friday morning.<br/>CAROL LOLLIS
  • Left Bob Fazzi and Gina Mazza during a staff meeting at Fazzi Associates Friday morning.<br/>CAROL LOLLIS

But one wouldn’t know that halfway through a recent interview with founder Robert Fazzi, who paused and bluntly asked if what he was saying about the firm that bears his name, Fazzi Associates, is boring.

“It’s boring, isn’t it?” Fazzi said. “So what’s the exciting part? The exciting part is that here in Northampton, there’s a company that is growing like crazy.”

Fazzi estimates that he could double the size of his 100-plus-employee firm — 66 full-time staff work in Northampton with another 40 contract workers throughout the country — in the next six months if he can find employees with the right skill sets.

Not well known to people outside the home care and hospice professions, Fazzi Associates is playing a key role in the industry on a national level, and is doing so from increasingly cramped offices at the Potpourri Plaza on King Street.

The company is preparing to move its headquarters to a new building to be constructed at Village Hill Northampton on the former state hospital campus. Fazzi intends to lease the upper floors of a 16,300-square-foot office building on the development’s north campus and expects to move in about a year.

The extra space will give the company much-needed elbow room and allow it to expand even more. Fazzi is already worried the space won’t be big enough to handle the company’s projected growth, especially in its coding division.

“We are impacting the quality of care to hundreds of thousands of patients nationwide,” Fazzi said. “We do it in multiple ways. It’s pretty boring how we do it, but in fact patients are better off because of what we do.”

Patients might not ever know the role Fazzi Associates plays in helping home care agencies improve their operations. But, Fazzi said, patients benefit when nurses are better trained or when agencies adjust the services they provide based on patient satisfaction surveys administered by the firm.

Patients also benefit when accurately processed medical codes enable agencies to collect more money and invest it back into their services, or when research studies show ways agencies can keep patients out of the hospital, he said.

Fazzi Associates is on the cutting edge of an industry that’s only projected to grow thanks to reforms in health care and the aging of the baby boomer population.

There are about 2.3 million Medicare patients served every year by about 12,000 home care and 4,000 hospice agencies across the country.

Fazzi Associates serves about 1,500 home care and hospice agencies, a figure that’s more than tripled over the last five years, Fazzi said.

“We are a national company,” said Gina Mazza, a Fazzi partner and director of data services.

Fazzi founded his firm in 1978 in Springfield while he was president of the Center for Human Development. The company later moved to West Springfield before opening in Northampton about 20 years ago.

In its consulting role, Fazzi Associates helps home care and hospice agencies address core challenges so that they can address the critical mission of keeping people healthy and in the community.

“We have a strong belief that the community is just the best place for people to be, and the way we do it is by helping agencies get stronger so they can in fact keep their patients in the community,” Fazzi said.

The company does this in a number of ways, from coding services to operational audits, growth and strategic planning consulting, education and training, patient satisfaction surveys and national research projects.

Fazzi is also establishing a national accreditation company for coders, nurses and therapists who work in home health and hospice care.

“This is the first time in the history of home health and hospice that they’ve had these nationally accredited credentials,” said Lindsay Doak, director of marketing. “It’s going to have a major impact on home health and hospice in general across the country.”

Coding fuels growth

The company’s recent growth is being fueled largely by an explosion in the coding services it offers to agencies.

Fazzi said it is the largest outsource coding service provider in the country. The company expects to code more than 120,000 patient records by the end of the year.

Coding is a critical piece of the payment puzzle for the home care profession, as the codes for patient services directly impact reimbursements paid by health insurance companies.

Mazza said coding used to be “very loose,” but is now much more regulated.

“What you once were able to do in an agency, it’s really not the most efficient way anymore,” she said.

Coders at Fazzi help agencies review coding records and identify and correct mistakes. The work can save an agency a considerable amount of money.

“What started out as just an idea has over 30 employees now,” Doak said. “This has really taken off aggressively.”

Fazzi said his company struggles to fill the number of coding positions it has available. The starting salary for a certified coder who can complete 10 codes without error in home care is $32,000 a year, plus benefits, overtime and bonuses. He said the company is in talks with three colleges and the state on how to accelerate the training of home care coders. Once a student graduates from a college or technical program, it takes two to six months to become a certified coder.

Fazzi also conducts national studies, partnering with major corporations such as 3M, Pricewaterhouse Coopers and Delta Health Technologies.

The nationally published studies range in scope from the best ways agencies can use clinical assessment products to advances in technology that will help people stay in their homes longer.

Mazza said the company is currently working on a study that will analyze how home health agencies can keep patients in the home and avoid hospitalization.

The study has led to the creation of a model that is now being tested and implemented throughout the country as a way to reduce hospitalization. Fazzi recently returned from a conference in Ohio, where the model has successfully reduced hospitalization by 20 percent for the 100 agencies that are using it, he said.

Given that rehospitalization costs average around $9,200 per patient, the improvements are saving the agencies a lot of money that can then be funneled back into their operations, Fazzi said.

Fazzi also administers a patient satisfaction survey for hundreds of agencies nationwide, and operates an online testing and training center through which thousands of nurses and therapists evaluate their skills every quarter. Fazzi has a team of faculty from across the country that creates the questions for the test, which agencies then use to pinpoint areas where additional training is needed, Doak said. Leaders of those organizations can ensure that only competent people are visiting patients.

“The exciting part of this is that we’ve reached 10,000 clinicians across the country, so the impact of that trickles down to improving patient care,” Doak said.

In addition to its work, Fazzi Associates believes it has a moral and financial responsibility to give back to the community. That’s why it donates 10 percent of the firm’s annual profits to community, educational and social services, especially those that serve vulnerable children and families. The company also encourges employees to volunteer at such agencies and gives them days of paid leave to do such work.

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