Business Profile | Linnea Windel

November 2013 View more

President and CEO of VNA Health Care






Photo by Mike Hudson

For more than 90 years VNA Health Care has been the area’s gold standard in home health. Under the leadership of Linnea Windel, VNA has grown significantly, adding new sites and programs and quadrupling the annual operating budget since 1999. Naperville Magazine recently spoke with Windel about the challenges facing the health care industry and the growing need to provide primary care for people in our community.

As President and CEO of VNA Health Care, a nonprofit health care organization that provides health care to those uninsured and underinsured, you have significantly added new sites and programs, what has been your proudest accomplishment so far?

VNA sought designation as a federally-funded community health center, also known as a Federally Qualified Health Center—FQHC, in 2002 to address unmet health care needs in Aurora. We anticipated brisk growth, but even we were surprised at the rate of growth. We have had nearly tenfold growth in our patient population over these last 11 years. VNA currently serves 50,000 patients. One out of 10 residents of Kane County receives their medical care at VNA. With the recent addition of our health center locations in DuPage and Will counties, VNA has become a regional health care provider. While “bigger” is great because it means we are living out our purpose and serving more people that need our services, “better” is just as important to us. VNA Health Care is Joint Commission accredited and recently passed the Primary Care Medical Home certification. Our organization is among the top community health centers across the country in terms of our patient outcomes such as prenatal care, control of diabetes, and up-to-date immunizations for children, as reported by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration.

VNA’s combination of convenient care by appointment or walk-in, powerful technology (electronic health record system and automated reminders as examples), and expert care delivered with care and compassion, have led to these results. Over the years, the staff of VNA, our volunteers, our supporters, and our Board of Directors have worked together to build the organization that it is today.

With all the changes currently taking effect in the current health care system, what is your greatest challenge as an organization?

With the implementation of The Affordable Care Act, the focus will shift toward a higher-efficiency, patient-centered health care system, with a stronger emphasis on prevention. VNA has been anticipating this shift for some time and is prepared to meet the challenges associated with the changes. We expect increased demand for services as people obtain Medicaid or other health insurance coverage and ask, “Now where do I go for care?” VNA received funds through the Illinois Department of Public Health’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) In-Person Counselor Grant Program to conduct outreach, provide education, and facilitate enrollment into Medicaid as well as the Illinois Health Insurance Marketplace.

VNA will serve as the central communications and operations anchor for the ACA Outreach and Enrollment program in Kane county and portions of DuPage and Will counties. VNA staff will be in our health centers and will be out in the community giving presentations and providing one-on-one assistance with enrollment for coverage. Groups or individuals interested in presentations and individual assistance, may call VNA directly to learn more.

As part of your 2011 advanced leadership program for nurses, you developed the VNA CarePlus program. Tell us about this innovative model for delivering health care to patients.

As a part of my experience in Robert Wood Johnson Executive Nurse Fellows program, I developed an intensive, nurse-led care management program for VNA patients with complex medical needs. Beyond the foundational care management services required for Joint-Commission accreditation and exceeding the requirements for Primary Care Medical Home certification, Care Plus® community health nurses provide patients with in-home assessments, expert care coordination and navigation, individualized health and lifestyle coaching, and hospital transition care management. The program seeks to improve patient functioning and clinical outcomes, decrease hospitalizations, and help our older adult patients remain safe in their homes as they cope with multiple complex health issues.

You were recently honored with the Nonprofit Executive of the Year award for your efforts with VNA. What are your goals for the future of the organization?

Over the next three years, we expect to grow by an additional 60 percent, adding more locations in Northern Illinois, in communities with substantial need. Equally important is our ongoing investment in continuous improvement in quality, as measured by the health outcomes and patient experiences.

You are very active in numerous community and professional organizations. How do you maintain a positive work-life balance?

Like many busy people, there are times I feel it is not in balance. However, I enjoy what I do—it is ever-changing, stimulating, and meaningful. As the saying goes, there’s your job and then there’s your life’s work. I am extremely fortunate that I found my life’s work—it is very satisfying.

When you are not busy running a nonprofit health provider, how do you spend your spare time away from the office?

I enjoy time with my family, nice walks on the great trails in the area, and cooking lessons.

I always like learning something new. Right now, I’m getting ready to take French language lessons.