The first thing any new hire can expect is to be inundated with what it means to be a part of their new organization. Culture, mission statements, and value propositions aren’t just included in an onboarding packet, they’re often hung in every corner of an organization to remind employees where their priorities should lie. The idea of “company culture” is one tortured over by executives and HR departments, striving for the exact wording to accurately relay just what it means to be under the umbrella, no matter how large or small, of a larger community.
Anthony Spero has a different approach.
Spero leads an organization that operates in more than twenty-five states (as well as Puerto Rico), has 2,500 employees, and provides hospice, home health, palliative care, long-term care pharmacy, private duty servicing, and hospice pharmacy services. He serves as chief operating officer and president at Care Solutions—the parent company for Partners Pharmacy, Advanced Pharmacy Solutions, Ascend Hospice & Home Health, and Avantum Hospice Pharmacy.
Spero started his healthcare career in a family-owned nursing home in Massachusetts. He worked in food service and the kitchen until he earned his CNA (certified nursing assistant) license, then worked the 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. shift doing direct patient care. He speaks about every experience since those days with the same zeal, passion, and humility that have become hallmarks of his own executive leadership. His views on creating culture are just as emphatic.
“My idea of creating culture is making sure that people feel valued and appreciated every day, and that we’re giving our folks an opportunity to grow within the company,” Spero says. “My idea of culture is hiring the right people and putting them where they can be 100 percent themselves.”
“This is the future of post-acute care. This bypasses all of the companies whose whole business model is based on waste, and it gets nurses back with their patients where they’re most needed.”
The COO says dogmatic adherence to some larger company mantra is pointless if the people he hires aren’t able to bring their full skill sets, personalities, and leadership qualities to their roles.
“I said this to a leader that I hired last week who I just think is incredible,” Spero says. “I just told them that I wanted them to bring all of themselves to the organization. I wanted them to be 100 percent who they are, and they looked shocked. They said no one had ever said that to them before. It’s not about creating a culture that everyone has to subscribe to. I want our people to know that if they bring all of themselves, they’re always going to be respected and honored.”
The success and multitude of Spero’s healthcare endeavors are matched by high retention rates in all of the businesses he heads. Spero doesn’t employ any agency staff, even in the middle of a pandemic. The COO has a close connection with his staff. “I like to share how much I care about our people and recognize the incredible job they do each and every day,” Spero says. “That recognition is also balanced with a strong sense of accountability-centered, results-driven culture focused on meeting and exceeding our commitments.”
Commitments is the key word. Spero says he’s driven executives crazy with the language he wants used in meetings. “Whenever I hear the word ‘hope’ or ‘maybe’ I correct it,” Spero explains. “We’re coming from a place of empowerment. We are intentional about our commitments and holding ourselves accountable to that. My commitment to our team is that I will always provide them with the support and resources to be successful and then make sure that I get out of their way.”
Those commitments include changing the face of long-term care pharmacies. One of Spero’s offshoots, Advanced Pharmacy Solutions (APS), has developed an ecosystem of automatic medication packaging and dispensing devices and services designed to help save time, improve care, and reduce costs. “Why should any nursing center where a patient is being cared for have to wait for a medication to be delivered to a facility when they can have APS?” he poses.
The APS system connects directly to electronic medical records to dispense medication for patients right when they need it and in real time. That means no excess medication (an average of eight days of medication per patient per month is saved by APS), less time for nurses to spend away from their patients, and no medication counts when caregivers change shifts because the APS system is the pharmacy.
When Hurricane Maria flooded nursing homes, the APS PassPort machines provided medications onsite at the nursing center when other pharmacies struggled to be able to deliver medications to facilities they could not access and or travel to. “This is the future of post-acute care,” Spero says. “This bypasses all of the companies whose whole business model is based on waste, and it gets nurses back with their patients where they’re most needed.”
While technology is driving innovation at APS, Spero says the IDEA [Inclusion, Diversity, Equality, Awareness] committee is driving the heart and soul of the organization. “That’s the meeting I look forward to most each week,” Spero says. “We have amazing diversity here, and I’m so excited to be able to tap into that incredible knowledge and leadership that this group offers and to think about what we can do differently as an organization.”
The IDEA and idea, Spero says, all comes back to empowerment. Sensitivity training, creating new opportunities for rising leaders, and highlighting what makes Spero’s people “100 percent themselves” are all points of focus. The IDEA committee members will be the keynote speakers for the organization’s 2021 leadership meetings, and Spero is dedicated to making sure the group has a respected, honored, and valuable voice.
Spero’s focus on finding passionate and motivated people is paying off. A new pharmacy adherence and medication management company was just launched with a focus of continuing to shift long-term care pharmacy services to a value-based, care transitions model with a medication management platform. But the businesses all seem to come back to the same motivating force for Spero. “Every day I and our leaders get up thinking about how we can show appreciation for these amazing people,” the COO says. “That’s what motivates me and our team every day. I feel blessed to be able to impact so many lives.”
At MHA, we are proud to support Anthony Spero, chief operating officer at Partners Pharmacy, and his continuous commitment to finding ways to improve patient care. Like Anthony, MHA is committed to providing innovative products, solutions, and services that help pharmacies successfully meet their patients’ needs.