Meet the Team is our new blog series introducing some of the amazing professionals at Ascendient – who they are and what makes them tick. This month, meet Emily Cromer, a principal who joined the firm in June 2002.
You’ve been with Ascendient nearly 20 years now, which is a pretty remarkable tenure in this industry. What originally attracted you to the firm, and what has kept you there so long?
I’ve been asked this countless times over the last 20 years and the answer is always the same. I never had my sights on a consulting career as what little I knew of it suggested there was no option in the field other than living out of a suitcase and being a number among many. I interviewed with the firm based on a recommendation from a friend in my Master of Healthcare Administration program. It never sounds any less cliché no matter how many times I tell the story, but I left the office that day with a new-to-me, very clear-minded determination that I must work with those very people and I must do the work they were doing. The passion for the work, the genuine focus on meaningful relationships – among colleagues and clients alike – and the unquestionable integrity of the work … these were palpable and infectious.
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to spend the last 20 years calling the best of the best my colleagues and friends, cultivating meaningful relationships with clients I value, and living out the same passion and integrity that I felt the day I walked in the office for the first time 20 years ago.
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in those 20 years – not with Ascendient, specifically, but rather with the healthcare industry as a whole?
Much has changed in the healthcare industry in the last two decades, some promising with efforts to increase access to health coverage, and some devastating such as the growing Opioid epidemic. Continually escalating healthcare spending, though, has been a common thread and has forced changes in behaviors of healthcare providers and healthcare consumers. As of now, it seems there’s no clear solution and that staggering healthcare expenditures will continue to be a force of change in the industry for years to come.
If you had to pick the single most rewarding engagement you’ve ever worked on, what would it be?
It’s impossible to pick just one. But since I was fortunate to have a good deal of exposure to hospice and end-of-life care work in my early days and years with the firm, I have a real heart for that work.
Probably the most rewarding, though, involved the development of a new hospice inpatient facility. I had the privilege of working with a long-term and valued client of the firm from beginning to end, starting with a market feasibility study followed by a business plan, helping to assess the pros and cons of potential partnership opportunities, and later preparing and submitting a Certificate of Need application seeking State approval for the development of the facility.
The real reward came in the form of an invitation to the groundbreaking ceremony, later the ribbon cutting, and finally a tour of the facility a year or so after it became operational. To see a client’s desire to provide such a needed service in their community, to help them achieve that, and to be rewarded with walking the corridors and seeing the compassionate care provided and the important work they were doing in their community … it doesn’t get much better than that.
Tell us more about the sense of purpose you bring to your work: Where does it come from and how does it drive you?
A lot of it can be traced back to all those things I felt the first day I was introduced to this firm and when I began my career. I am driven by the belief that what I do makes a difference. My work is one small piece of the puzzle that comes together to enable our clients to do the good work they do and improve the health of their communities. They are out on the front lines doing the hard work day to day to make a positive difference and to meet the needs of the patients who depend on them. If the focus and dedication I bring to my work contributes to that in even the smallest way, I’m doing something right.
Your bio says that you specialize in strategy and planning for end-of-life care providers. What do you see as the biggest need or the biggest opportunity in that space?
Unfortunately, I think the biggest need in end-of-life care is one that has persisted throughout my career and that is for education and earlier referral. Comprehensive end-of-life care is based on a unique philosophy, focusing on palliative rather than curative treatments for the terminally ill with the goal of maximizing the quality of life for the patient and family. Not only does this provide gold standard care for patients and their families, it can result in substantial cost savings to the healthcare system. The average spending per Medicare hospice patient with an almost 90-day average length of stay is comparable to the average spending for a single Medicare hospital admission with a little less than a five-day length of stay.
But these patient and family benefits and cost savings can only be maximized when patients facing the end of life are referred to palliative care and hospice earlier rather than in the last days of life. The philosophy is there, the know-how is there, the opportunity for cost savings is there, and the dedication of some of the most compassionate healthcare providers in the industry is there. But without adequate outreach and education, long-held misconceptions and reluctance will continue to result in late referrals and we will continue to fail to maximize the benefits of end-of-life care.
Who are you when you’re not at work? What do you love to do outside the office?
I’m a mother, daughter, sister, wife, and friend to a bunch of people I love to spend time with. I’m a proud Durhamite and love to spend time exploring my own growing city, but also have a persistent itch to get out of town and travel with family and friends whenever I can. The last couple years have made that challenging, but I’ve escaped to the healing sights, sounds, and smells of the beach as often as possible!
Exit question: If you could solve one issue in the US healthcare system that would have the greatest impact, what would that be?
I mentioned before that there’s no clear solution to the healthcare crisis facing this country that is astronomical healthcare spending. If I could wake up one day with the crystal ball that held that solution, I would.
For more of Emily Cromer’s thinking on end-of-life care, please see this recent blog post.