Head in the Game New CEO Has Big Goals for Kindred Hospital Park View

Jake Socha loves soccer. And for a long time, he saw coaching the sport as a long-term career path.

“My focus and goal was to be coaching soccer on the college or Olympic level, and that was the path I was taking,” Socha said, adding that he accomplished some of both, helming a team at Westfield State College and becoming involved with the Olympic development program. But when he met his wife — and her mother — his plans began to shift.

His mother-in-law turned out to be Barbara Rohan, the CEO of Rehab West in Ludlow. “I was offered an opportunity to get involved in sports medicine,” he said, and later became involved in management at the facility. “I was still using a lot of my coaching skills; they applied to what I did every day with management teams and staff.”

From there, he was offered the position of vice president of a local, multi-facility physician group. “That was very, very different,” he said. “I was managing 300 employees, 60 doctors … I learned the whole scope of the health care business, from direct care to the financial components; it was another great learning opportunity.”

After a short stint at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, Socha was approached by Kindred Healthcare to be the CEO of its Natick facility. After five years of commuting there from Ludlow, he took over as chief operating officer of Park View and served in that role for a year before replacing the retiring Karen Moore as CEO.

Socha says he’s a big believer in the Kindred model of long-term acute care, or LTAC, of which there are few facilities in Western New England.

“It’s a unique place,” Socha said. “It’s a cross between a med-surg unit and a modified ICU facility that takes patients from facilities like Baystate, Brigham and Women’s, Mercy, Holyoke, and the surrounding short-terms who need additional care to get through their medical complexities.”

Uniquely Positioned

Park View, however, is an atypical Kindred facility in that it encompasses three different areas of care: an 86-bed LTAC unit, a 28-bed neurobehavioral unit, and a 30-bed forensic psychology unit. “Those are three very different business units from a health care perspective, but LTAC is really the foundation of this building and drives our business,” Socha said, noting that it’s the third-largest LTAC unit in the Commonwealth.

The role of long-term acute care, as a bridge between short-term hospitals and outpatient rehabilitation, cannot be overstated, Socha said, particularly considering that the entire health care industry is focused on cutting costs, yet also trying to prevent rehospitalizations.

“We’re well-positioned to help control costs and really manage patients through the system, especially at a time when pressures on acute care have short-term hospitals moving patients out quickly, and managed-care organizations want to move patients out even quicker,” he said. “We really are in a position to assist these folks and allow them to heal at their own pace.”

Unlike a short-term hospital, Socha said, Kindred typically accommodates a 25-day length of stay, offering services ranging from physical, occupational, and speech therapy to respiratory therapy, dialysis, and pain management. “A lot of our folks go home, which is great, but others go to subacute units or rehab hospitals for additional therapies.”

It’s all part of a care continuum, on which Park View plays a key role, Socha said. In some cases, “we utilize nursing homes and home-care groups; we work to get the patient to the next level of care as needed, or home. We have great relationships with short-term referral sources, such as Mercy and Cooley Dickinson, not to mention UMass, Albany Medical Center, Mass General … we get quite a few referrals from outside the community.”

With a staff of about 450, Socha sees growth in Park View’s future, to go along with recent physical renovations to the State Street campus. “We’ve made a tremendous amount of changes in the physical plant, we have a new look from renovations, and we’re adding additional equipment that’s going to allow us to serve our patients and our customers better.”

In addition, “we’re focused on hiring more ICU and critical-care nurses because that’s the type of patient we are seeing,” he said. “The clinical team, besides the physician, is made up of nurses, group therapy, and rehabilitation; it makes for a tremendous interdisciplinary team.”

Long-term Thinking

Socha understands the unique role of Kindred Hospital Park View, but he’s trying to expand it as well. He’s working to institute 24-hour emergency coverage and staffing the facility with a cardiologist, pulmonologist, gastroenterologist, and other specialists, all with the goal of making sure it functions as a full-fledged hospital when necessary — only with the opportunity to stay awhile and heal.

“The message in this building is simple,” he continued. “Take care of the patient to the best of your ability, take care of the staff, and manage your business.”

And he still credits Rohan with drawing him into a field he finds truly rewarding. “She’s been a mentor of mine for many years,” Socha said. “She’s a tremendous entrepreneur and an individual who’s been a staple in the health care arena in this marketplace. It’s been a tremendous experience.”

In his spare time, Socha finds opportunities to golf, fish, and enjoy other outdoor activities, preferably with his family. “And I’m still involved in soccer; I coach my daughter’s Premier team, the Junior Pioneers out of Ludlow,” he said. “And I’m still involved with the Massachusetts Olympic development program.”

But that’s not all the coaching he does.

“I think I bring a tremendous scope and background in the hospital business,” Socha said of his varied experiences in health care, from rehabilitation to administration. “And I still feel like I’m coaching here, with a young management team, helping guide them through the work they do every day.

“I just love to come to work; this is a tremendous company to work for, and they’ve been nothing but supportive to me,” he added. “There’s such a focus on quality, and it’s refreshing to see what we do every day. Even at the corporate level, there’s a commitment to making sure we have the resources we need to take care of patients. I don’t think I’d be here as long as I have if I didn’t feel that way.”

Feeling good about the long term. Sounds like another Park View success story.