Gwen Cooper, Hosparus Health

Gwen Cooper, MPA, CFRE, SVP / Chief External Affairs Officer, Hosparus Health


  • Member of the Louisville Healthcare CEO Council, Founding Core Team and Innovation Committee and member of the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care- National Workgroup.
  • Creator of the Run with our Heroes 5K.
  • Bachelor of Arts in mass communications with a minor in speech communications from University of South Florida. Master’s degree in public administration and nonprofit management from Indiana University.
  • Cooper, along with her husband and son, are avid extreme hikers, completing hikes in 27 states so far. They live on a farm in southern Indiana and enjoy fishing and boating on Patoka Lake. Cooper also likes to “pretend that she’s a runner.”
  • 2019 Centerstone Healthcare Advocacy MediStar Nominee

Medical News: Describe your advocacy efforts and the community you serve.

Gwen Cooper: Hosparus Health has a seat at the table in local, state and national advocacy circles to advocate for the healthcare needs for anyone living with a serious or life limiting illness. Our advocacy includes healthcare regulations, new payment models and healthcare coverage, caregiver and workforce needs and economic development. We engage in extensive dialogue about workforce and economic development to ensure the healthcare professionals we recruit have excellent quality of place where they live.

MN: Give one example of results you have seen through your efforts.

GC: In 2019 I successfully lead the charge for Indiana to join the Nurse Compact. The Nurse Licensure Compact, now recognized in 32 states including Kentucky and Indiana is a modern licensure solution.

Developed by State Boards of Nursing in 2015, the compact allows for nurses to have one multistate license with the ability to practice in all compact states. Kentucky joined the compact in 2016, we worked for over two years to successfully get Indiana to join the compact. Indiana representative Ed Clere served as our sponsor and he and our Hosparus Health team and coalition partners including Baptist Health Floyd, GLI and One Southern Indiana, worked tirelessly to get the Nurse Compact passed in Indiana.

MN: Out of all the things people advocate for, why is this so important?

GC: We have a critical nursing shortage. The Nurse Compact helps maximize workforce availability so there are no gaps in nursing coverage for patients. It also:

  • Allows nurses to quickly cross state borders and provide vital services in the event of a disaster.
  • Enables nurses to practice in-person or provide telenursing services to patients located across the country without having to obtain additional licenses.
  • Facilitates tele-nursing and online nursing education.
  • Makes practicing across Indiana and Kentucky EASY (and affordable).
  • Removes a burdensome expense for dual licensing.

MN: Looking back on the past year, how has the healthcare system changed and what is the medical community doing to adapt?

GC: We are encouraged by the innovation of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to begin addressing healthcare accessibility through the development of new payment models that attempt to pay for value over volume.

However, understanding how these models will work, how providers and payers will collaborate to make sure patients have access to doctors and necessary procedures remains to be seen.

As a provider who has a keen understanding of person-centered interdisciplinary team care for the most complex patients, hospice and palliative care organizations are poised to play an important role in the transfer from fee for service to value based payment models.

The future success of healthcare accessibility will be driven by the largest population- baby boomers- as they age into a world of Medicare and Medicare Advantage Plans and demand high quality care that meets their needs.

On the other end of the spectrum, I’m thrilled that the conversation around social determinants of health is front and center as a measure of potential good health throughout one’s entire life cycle. We are just beginning to scratch the surface to incorporate patient engagement and education as one of the socio-economic markers to lifelong good health. What an exciting time to be on the policy side of healthcare!

MN: What is the biggest challenge your organization will face in the upcoming year?

GC: There are so many it’s hard to pick the big one. At the top of my list is always to protect Kentucky’s certificate of need process to prevent over saturation of health services and facilities in the commonwealth.

Next is continual monitoring of mergers and acquisitions as the lines between payers and providers become blurred, reimbursement structures are changing along with profit margins and the number of not-for-profit community organizations continues to diminish.

The healthcare workforce shortage is always on our challenge list. We are thrilled that one of the hospice and palliative care industry’s signature pieces of legislation, the Palliative Care and Hospice Health, Education and Training Act, (H.R. 647) passed the House in October. We are hopeful we’ll get it across the finish line in the Senate in early 2020.

And finally, our biggest challenge overall is educating patients and families about the right time to engage with hospice care. We could help families so much earlier if they would just call us sooner. Communication is key for us as we work to educate physicians, nurses, discharge planners, patients and the general public about the benefits of hospice and palliative care.