As a result of Covid-19, the senior living industry’s paradigm shift toward more outstanding clinical capabilities and integration has become more assertive. The industry has been taking these steps for years before Covid-19 due to increasing health care utilization and health care payment system shifts, among other factors.
Providers in the space are investing in improving clinical capabilities, especially as the Covid-19 deadline approaches. These investments include adding chief clinical officers to leadership teams or bringing in new talent for such positions. Some employers recently appointed chief clinical officers, such as Milestone Retirement, JEA Senior Living, which hired a new vice president of clinical services, and Ascension, which hired a chief medical officer for elderly care.
The clinical leadership team presides over building up the clinical team and recruiting other clinical leaders, partnering up with health systems, leveraging data and technology to accomplish favorable health outcomes, and leveraging clinical expertise to increase leads and occupancy for the organization.
Paula Adams, Chief Clinical Officer of the Senior Lifestyle Corporation, said clinical leaders need to accomplish these goals while striking a balance between health care and hospitality.
After spending eight years at various companies throughout the health care continuum, Adams joined the Chicago-based operator in 2017 that oversees about 200 communities throughout the nation. Her theory is that senior living is experiencing a paradigm shift similar to that happening in the acute care sector 20 years ago. Boutique hospitals took elements from the hospitality industry and applied them to a medical setting.
There are clinical experts with experience in both the acute and hospitality care fields, which will be essential for a provider looking to hire clinicians for their C-suite.
Confidence building among consumers
In addition to demonstrating the need for robust controls against infection, the pandemic also severely eroded occupancy rates in senior living communities.
Dr. Kevin O’Neil, Chief Medical Officer of the company, says senior clinicians serve as valuable assets for the sales and marketing teams recruiting families seeking senior housing. Additionally, this gives prospects and their families peace of mind that their health care needs will be addressed.
Consultant to Pegasus Senior Living’s wellness and health team, Dr. Sandra Petersen, during the webinar, discussed ways to effectively communicate with residents and their families on various topics, from everyday health and wellness needs to changes in provider response to extreme events.
Petersen spent five years in the Texas National Guard, working in disaster management while spending her entire career in health care, including as a geriatrician. This mix of experiences has prepared her for her current work.
Despite the shift to a health-care-based model, Senior Lifestyle saw it years ago. Its clinical team works closely with the provider’s sales and marketing departments, sharing clinical information with them so sales leaders could involve prospects in clinical decisions.
Collaborations between medical practitioners
Clinicians who serve as clinical executives deliver all aspects of care to patients. These services include community-based services, telemedicine initiatives, telehealth initiatives, pharmacy services, mental health partnerships, and rehab partnerships.
Petersen believes that the transition in senior living to a health-based model will strengthen the importance of third-party partnerships. Such partnerships will be even more crucial as a growing number of residents struggle with the effects of living isolated from families, friends, and each other.
Adams sees potential for expanding telehealth and telemedicine care to lower acuity levels of care in Senior Lifestyle skilled nursing cohorts. The provider launched a telemedicine program in a few assisted living facilities last year. Still, it struggled due to multiple physicians in each facility rather than a primary caregiver as in the nursing home side. But they intend to expand the telemedicine service to lower-acuity settings.
A few weeks ago, Senior Lifestyle implemented its electronic health record and medication management platforms. And it partnered with Salesforce, which rewrote its Risk Connect platform to import community data to the Covid-19 platform so that residents and families here get updated information every day.
Senior Lifestyle will continue to investigate ways to incorporate technology to improve resident outcomes based on the data gathered, and Adams believes that technology will accelerate the collection of data.
Stronger health system alignment
The clinical leader’s most significant contribution is to drive alignment with the health care system.
Medicare and Medicaid benefits — or both — are the primary source of income for the bulk of ALG Senior’s resident population, O’Neil noted.
ALG Senior’s communities are expected to deliver value-based care in the future. The paradigm shift could allow us to create an integrated care model without losing sight of the hospitality element that initially attracts seniors to space.
A primary care physician can provide the preventative care residents need on-site, thereby reducing emergency room visits and EMT calls, driving better health outcomes, and allowing residents to stay in communities longer.
The Covid-19 Conference offers the industry opportunities to strengthen provider positions throughout the health care continuum.
As the pandemic began spreading, ALG Senior actively took an active role in establishing itself as a valuable partner for hospitals and managed care organizations, O’Neil stated. He believes health care providers have an excellent opportunity to become part of a larger healthcare ecosystem.
In O’Neil’s view, the pandemic provided opportunities to examine alternative approaches for providing senior care with positive outcomes, resulting in resident engagement, medication usage, mentation, and mobility. As a result, ALG Senior became more involved in exercise programs in non-group settings and reviewed prescription protocols to ensure that antipsychotics were not prescribed excessively.
We are dedicated to addressing issues related to our residents’ safety and quality of life and the quality of care they receive in the communities in which we operate. A review by O’Neil is analogous to your ship being inspected before it is about to leave the harbor so that it is free of dents and leaks. He worked with the facilities management and human resources teams to ensure that protocols were satisfactory and motivated workers to reduce turnover by incentivizing them to address outbreaks in their communities.
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