by Christian Sweetser
Every business sector is searching for the opportunity to increase revenues. One solution that is currently being embraced by seniors housing is the eponymous revenue management approach pioneered by the airline industry in the 1970s.
The computerized/mathematical functioning of the model is complex, but the concept is simple: by carefully orchestrating pricing and available inventory, an organization can maximize revenues and thereby profits. The seniors housing industry cannot afford to be short sighted, as its future of revenue management actually lies in population health management.
As health care continues to extend, necessarily, beyond the hospital and physician’s office, seniors housing is uniquely positioned to make population health management part of its care and business strategy. There are several technology solutions gaining larger health market acceptance that will enable residents to be connected more frequently and effectively to their own health and its management.
By embracing the technology infrastructure to support electronic medical records, wearable health monitors, and telemedicine, seniors housing will further differentiate the value proposition of the industry, improve potential health outcomes, increase lengths of stay, generate positive word of mouth, and possibly lead to recognition and partnership with area health systems, all of which enhance revenue potential.
Increasing Adoption of Electronic Medical Record (EMR)
This year marks the adoption of EMR by all eligible professionals and hospitals under the “Meaningful Use” requirements mandated by the Affordable Care Act. All clinical quality and health care value initiatives are critically dependent on EMR because it brings together the information required to measure virtually anything.
EMR’s increasing adoption across the health care landscape will enable better coordinated care, improve communication and reduce medical errors. The result will hopefully be lower costs for chronic disease treatment, which plagues the U.S. health system, as case management can be more effectively organized amongst multiple physicians and care settings.
Through EMR adoption, seniors housing residents’ health data (i.e. vitals, active medication and problem list, etc.) can be monitored remotely by a physician ensuring that decisions are informed by the best evidence. Residents of seniors housing will benefit from this enriched communication with their care team.
Higher Utilization of Wearable Health Technology
Several large technology companies including Apple, Google and Samsung have entered the expanding health market with the introduction of wearable devices.
The notion is that by recording and reporting information about behaviors such as physical activity or sleep patterns, these devices can educate and motivate individuals toward better habits and health and meaningfully address chronic health conditions.1 History and numerous studies illustrate that the true health benefits of wearables are best realized in group programs. The success is primarily due to the impact of a group dynamic and social support created when individuals are exposed to others living and coping with similar conditions.2,3
Although these group programs have proven successful, they have unfortunately been restrained by the requirements of data collection and longevity of patient participation. Within seniors housing these elements can both be easily addressed. A seniors housing community can offer the infrastructure to collect and aggregate the data (WiFi, docking stations, etc.), and most importantly, provide appropriate-level, tailored education to assist with daily health management. Residents will achieve a higher level of engagement in their care process via enhanced education and real time feedback via wearables.
Telemedicine: Delivering Care Where and When Needed
Telemedicine is the use of technology to deliver health care services remotely, with the most promising element for seniors housing being remote monitoring.
As the burden of disease in the United States has shifted from acute to chronic, the management of these patients requires frequent check-ins for monitoring of symptoms, vital signs, laboratory testing, and adjustments of medications. Such check-ins can be a considerable drain for both physicians and patients. Because assessment and treatment of lifestyle behaviors for chronic diseases is infrequent, and when provided, poorly adhered to, there is a tremendous opportunity to leverage telehealth technologies to achieve coordinated health care.
Telemedicine capitalizes on the new information infrastructure made possible by EMR and wearables and permits highly specialized medical advice to be introduced into non-clinical settings. This will become increasingly important in managing the most complex and highest service utilization patients, the very residents of seniors housing communities across the nation. And now that Medicare and other payers have started reimbursing for some telemedicine services, seniors housing communities should be looking to capitalize on this trend.
The three technology trends highlighted above are just a sample of what is coming. From 24-hour retail health clinics and personalized medical laboratory testing, the industry of health care is quickly becoming consumer-oriented and interactive, with lines often blurring between the continuum of care.
The effects of EMR, wearables and telemedicine will convert health care consumers from passive recipients to active partners in their own health, and seniors and their adult children will expect a high-quality personalized health care experience. While implementation may be difficult, health care technology will continue to build upon these platforms.
With traditional revenue management focusing on maximizing sales using retrospective data to predict future patterns of behavior, seniors housing has the opportunity to expand on this. Through participating in and pioneering these upcoming health care technology trends, seniors housing operators will continue to maximize sales, occupancy, and revenue by anticipating the needs and expectations of residents and their families. The seniors housing operators that are able to adapt and improve on the current model will continue to thrive in this ever-changing landscape, while at the same time providing improved quality of life and health outcomes.
1Conroy DE, Yang CH, Maher JP. Behavior change techniques in top-ranked mobile apps for physical activity. American Journal of Preventative Medicine. 2014, Vol 46, No 6.
2Malani RV, Lavie CJ. Impact of cardiac rehabilitation on depression and its associated mortality. American Journal of Medicine 2007; pg 799-806
3House JS, Landis KR, Social relationships and health. Science. May 1998; pg. 54-60
Christian Sweetser is Vice President of International at Health Care REIT (NYSE: HCN). He serves as a director on all international joint venture boards and oversees foreign currency transactions and risk-hedging positions for a $4B international real estate portfolio across four countries. His responsibilities also include providing analytic and implementation support for multi-country and multi-jurisdictional investment transactions and portfolio management. Mr. Sweetser holds an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and a BA from Cornell University. In addition, Mr. Sweetser is a CFA Charterholder.