Assisted living can function as an “obvious solution” for preventing hospital readmissions thanks to technology and care partnerships, but first the industry must develop a model to measure outcomes and educate the care continuum of its abilities, said a panel of senior living executives at the recent ALFA 2012 Community event.
Educating others on the viability of assisted living as a post-acute option is key.
“We have to educate hospitals on how we can be an option for them,” said panelist Judd Harper, COO of The Arbor Company. Education is especially relevant as the Accountable Care Organization (ACO) trend—and managed care in general—grows in popularity, the panel agreed.
“People say they don’t know if ACOs are going to happen, [but] that train has left the station. It’s happening,” said Stephanie Handelson, president and COO of New England-based Benchmark Senior Living, during the session.
Tracking data to measure outcomes is a key component in building a desirable partner profile for hospitals.
Almost all of Belmont Village’s senior living communities offer in-house access to rehabilitation services, said its president, Patricia Will, but it’s more than just providing space for post-acute care services.
“We need to attain and maintain a model on how to measure outcomes,” she said during the session.
ACOs essentially have a “negative” measurement, she continued: Don’t send residents back to the hospital.
“We are an obvious solution to that,” she said. “But how we establish the metrics around that is a challenge.”
Typically, senior care providers track data and outcomes in accordance with Medicare requirements to receive reimbursements. But because the assisted living industry doesn’t participate in the Medicare program, by and large, tracking outcomes isn’t generally part of the model.
“We will have to figure out how to look at resident outcomes in a business that doesn’t measure those things, because ACOs will have to know that,” Will said.
Technology plays an integral role in allowing assisted living providers to partner with other post-acute care providers. With the evolution of wireless technology, healthcare providers are trying to figure out its role in their communities, noted Paul Donaldson AIA, LEED AP, a principal at international design firm Perkins+Will.
“We’re constantly battling with our clients trying to make decisions about how they want to track things,” he said, adding that his firm is seeing “a lot more crossover” from its healthcare clients who are becoming more accountable for their discharged residents.
As a business, the assisted living industry is trying to grow into that accountability aspect and tap into the world of care, Donaldson said.
Written by Alyssa Gerace