C-TAC News

The Blog to Transform Advanced Care

Advancing Care through Innovation, Observation and Collaboration.

Michael Fratkin: Soft Landings

When he was eight years old, Michael Fratkin attended the funeral of his Grandpa Willie. He felt that the person before him did not match his memories of the loved one. It was this childhood experience that led to his interest in the human condition at the end of life.

“That was the Rosetta Stone,” said Dr. Fratkin. “I began a long-term curiosity about what everybody was missing about death and dying.”

After practicing palliative medicine for about 20 years, Dr. Fratkin founded ResolutionCare, which provides home-based care to people in rural northern California through a combination of home visits and video conferencing. He said that this decision was motivated by frustration and indignation at misaligned resources in healthcare delivery.

Dr. Fratkin also observed a lack of what he described as “a core understanding of what we do when we care for people who are dying.” During this time, he began sharing his palliative care expertise through a series that was then known as Google Help Outs, a service which paired people with experts on a variety of subjects through video chats. Dr. Fratkin recalled speaking with a young woman being treated in a hospital for ovarian cancer. After speaking with her palliative care physician, Dr. Fratkin made recommendations for care that were implemented and led to the woman leaving the hospital days later.

Experiences like this are what drove Dr. Fratkin to create ResolutionCare. Now, Dr. Fratkin and his 34 employees are treating 200 patients across three rural counties in northern California. He estimates that they have cared for roughly 1,000 people since launching in January of 2015.

Delivering high-quality palliative care can be made more difficult by issues related to payment, particularly for rural providers. Dr. Fratkin addresses these challenges with help from ResolutionCare co-founder Stephen Franey, who turned Dr. Fratkin’s attention to value-based payment. Franey now serves as the provider’s Chief Financial Officer and Chief Strategy Officer.

Dr. Fratkin’s work was recently the focus of a Washington Post article on the potential of palliative care to improve patient experience while reducing cost. The piece outlined the mission of Dr. Fratkin and his team, who aim to help people live as fully as they can for as long as possible and then die in peace. Dr. Fratkin describes this type of end-of-life experience as a “soft landing.”

Drawing on experience from palliative care leaders like Center to Advance Palliative Care Founder Diane Meier, Dr. Fratkin is driven to use his skills and resources to treat people in the setting that is right for them. Echoing the words of poet Mary Oliver, he said that those with privilege must use their advantages to benefit others. “We have this one wild and precious life,” said Dr. Fratkin. “We need to seize the mechanisms of caring in our society. That’s our responsibility.”

Leave a Comment