How One Provider Doubled Length of Stay in Independent Living

Senior housing providers currently are bullish on independent living, and now it appears they have even more reason to be enthusiastic. That’s because they might be able to double residents’ average length of stay through sensor technology.

The national median length of stay in independent living is 1.8 years, but TigerPlace—a community in Columbia, Missouri—achieved a 4.3-year average length of stay for some residents, according to recently published research findings.

TigerPlace is a partnership between Americare Senior Living and the University of Missouri Sinclair School of Nursing. Americare operates independent living, assisted living, nursing and memory care communities in five states. It operates all aspects of TigerPlace, but the nursing school provides nursing care. TigerPlace has been a training ground for more than 1,200 students since it opened its doors 12 years ago—and it also has been a research site and a testing ground for innovative care models.

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One notable aspect of TigerPlace is a focus on care coordination. An onsite, interdisciplinary team—including a registered nurse and a licensed clinical social worker—spearheads these services for residents. Prior studies showed that the care coordination element already was increasing length of stay, and adding the sensor technology made those numbers even better.

The sensors tracked and provided alerts on a variety of indicators, including walking patterns and falls, respiration rate, restlessness and pulse, according to a press release from the University of Missouri. These data points enabled earlier interventions by care coordinators when trouble arose, preventing health conditions from worsening and lowering the likelihood that a resident would need to move to a higher level of care.

The study was conducted over 4.8 years. It involved 52 residents living with sensors and a comparison group of 81 residents living without them. The groups were comparable based on a variety of factors, such as age, gender, number of chronic illnesses, mental health, and ability to do activities of daily living.

The group with sensors had an average length of stay of 4.3 years, compared to 2.6 years for the other cohort. The care coordination may have contributed to the fact that even the control group had a better average length of stay than the national average.

“I knew we were increasing residents’ lengths of stay based on care coordination because of the positive outcomes we observed in several prior studies, and I thought the sensors also would have an impact,” Marilyn Rantz, Curators Professor Emerita in the MU Sinclair School of Nursing, stated in the news release. “But to double length of stay based on care coordination and then to nearly double again based on adding sensors, to me, is huge.”

The research team believes that the TigerPlace model is cost-effective and could be replicated by other independent and assisted living providers, and their findings confirm what other industry experts have said about the potential of sensors prevent adverse health events.

But this type of technology also poses security and privacy risks, putting pressure on providers to choose vendors wisely and adhere to best practices in configuration, experts told Senior Housing News in an interview earlier this year.

The findings from TigerPlace appear in the journal Nursing Outlook.

Written by Tim Mullaney

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