Senior living providers are increasingly moving to optimize their chronic care and risk management as they come to understand the importance of this strategy for their survival and sustainability. Look no further than the recent formation of the Perennial Consortium, a collaboration between Christian Living Communities (Colorado), Juniper Communities (New Jersey), Ohio Living, and managed services partner and risk management company AllyAlign Health. The Consortium plans to launch Medicare Advantage (MA) special needs plans on a state-by-state basis and then sell ownership interest to senior living operators in each participating state.
A fully integrated, clinical model of care that the Consortium represents brings with it many benefits for staff, residents, families, and the organization and is surely a strategy to be replicated. Yet, providers must also remember that optimization of operations and technology does not mean that it is also person-centered. Fully integrated, person-centered care means that in addition to clinical efficiency, a resident’s current needs and preferences are the provider’s first and foremost priority. On the other hand, person-centered care alone, without processes in place for measuring and evaluating resident outcomes in real-time, also cannot succeed. The supportive role of technology cannot be understated as it helps combine the benefits of the fully integrated clinical model of care with the benefits of the person-centered model. It does so providing critical tools for real-time assessment, planning, engaging, and evaluation that individualizes care and engagement based on the unique needs and preferences of each resident.
Ultimately, healthcare itself is the product delivered by the provider but the personalized experience offered to a resident, and how an organization tracks data to evaluate their progress, is the true measure of how successful and person-centered our care delivery really is.
Only when senior living organizations commit to a fully integrated, person-centered care model, with a plan for measuring and evaluating outcomes, will potential residents view senior living as something they want to be a part of rather than something they may need but ultimately want to avoid.
In a recent viral Facebook post, a gentleman declared that he would prefer to spend the end of his life living at a Holiday Inn rather than a nursing home. A follow-up article in Forbes pointed out the reasons that the article was so popular but missed an important component of this person’s desire: he was looking for an environment that offered hospitality as a foundational part of its business framework. Hospitality is feeling warmly welcomed and knowing that your preferences are understood by the organization you are staying at and that your needs are always the priority of staff members. What people are seeking from their potential retirement, assisted living, and skilled nursing options is a model that values them as a unique human being first and that care is tailored to precisely fit their unique needs and preferences each day.
Many entrepreneurs and investors are quickly entering the senior care industry as they see business opportunities grow as the population rapidly ages, and often they claim that technology innovations alone will be the defining feature of what makes an older adult choose a particular housing option. So it is refreshing to see in a recent Senior Housing News article, that Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, believes that technology can support fully integrated care, making it more efficient and streamlined, but that robots and other technologies will not and cannot replace human care: “Empathy is the most extreme end of a non-routine task there is, because it requires creativity, it requires humanity, it requires things that I personally don’t believe robots will ever be able to do.”
An excellent example of fully integrated, person-centered care is the new collaboration between senior living provider Signature HealthCARE in Louisville, Kentucky and the non-profit Timeslips. Using Civil Money Penalty dollars and funding from charitable foundations, Signature HealthCARE is conducting theater performances that are developed by residents themselves in partnership with local artists and staff members and performed in front of community and family members. This is an example of elevating care beyond the clinical realm by focusing in on the human desire for personalized and collaborative engagement while also capturing outcome metrics on its success to encourage future investment in this model of care. As Timeslips Founder and CEO Anne Basting says, “It’s something that is incredibly powerful and meaningful for people to participate in — the elders, the staff, the volunteers who have lived in the same community and never visited the nursing home are integrated fully and are equally excited to be a part of this.”
It’s time for providers to look beyond just the biological age of a person and their current chronic conditions or disabilities and embrace this fully integrated, person-centered care that focuses on providing creative and meaningful engagement opportunities. These opportunities are measured and evaluated in real-time using technology, so that they are matched to a person’s changing needs and preferences.