Nonprofit Senior Living Provider, Health System Team Up on New Developments

An Iowa senior housing and care nonprofit is joining forces with a local health system on the development of a new senior living entity, branded as WellSpire.

Johnston, Iowa-based WesleyLife and Davenport, Iowa-based Genesis Health System are collaborating on the venture, starting with the creation of a new community in Bettendorf, Iowa. The $45 million community, which is set to break ground this summer or fall, will have 172 units spanning the full continuum of care.

The community marks the first official development project for WellSpire, the joint venture that WesleyLife and Genesis formed in January to better care for the older adults they serve. As part of WellSpire’s formation, WesleyLife is assuming management of two existing Genesis communities. In addition to the community in Bettendorf, the two organizations also plan to develop a senior housing community in Moline, Illinois, in the long-term.

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Counting the WellSpire partnership, WesleyLife will have 11 communities under its purview in addition to its home health, adult day, nutrition, transportation, hospice and public health nursing services. Genesis, meanwhile, has six hospital facilities throughout the Quad City region, which is about two hours west of Chicago.

The partnership with Genesis will give Wesley — the largest senior living nonprofit in Iowa — more tools to drive down costs and increase the quality of care for its older adult population, according to CEO Rob Kretzinger.

“We’re able to be a lot more proactive in thinking about the customer’s full healing process,” Kretzinger told Senior Housing News. “We want to make it more seamless, easier and more comprehensive, without having the silos of acute care and post-acute.”

For residents living in a WellSpire community, that might mean easier access to visits with Genesis physicians or other ways to age in place on campus. And, the general thinking is that this kind of care will keep them out of the hospital or higher-acuity settings for longer.

While it’s still in its early stages, the long-term goal is for WellSpire to become a comprehensive health and wellness network for older adults throughout eastern Iowa and Western Illinois — and even potentially beyond that.

“We have this macro vision that we want to help people live longer and healthier lives,” Kretzinger said. “Both organizations are quite progressive, so we could see [WellSpire] expanding beyond that market, potentially.”

Population health is the future

The integration of senior housing and health systems, insurers or hospitals is not a new trend, but it is one that’s gaining steam throughout the industry.

The thinking is that health systems can work with senior living communities to improve outcomes and drive down the cost of health care. And senior living communities can help improve the quality of care for their residents and stand out from their local competitors in the process.

In addition, some health systems also have affiliated Medicare Advantage plans. With Medicare Advantage beginning to offer benefits for some services in senior living, this is another point of synergy that is driving partnerships.

A population health approach is necessary for forward-thinking health care providers, according to Doug Cropper, CEO of Genesis Health System.

“The future is all about population health,” Cropper told SHN. “You cannot be a population health company and care for the 65+ demographic if you don’t integrate the senior services piece in a seamless way with the rest of the continuum.”

That’s not just a trend in the Quad Cities, but in the country as a whole, he added.

“I would see more and more organizations, both health systems as well as senior housing, wanting to do this,” Cropper added. “Everything is moving to population health, and in order to

do that well, you have to be able to have those two worlds work together.”
Other organizations embracing this trend include Summit Vista, a life plan community in Utah that is working with health system Intermountain, and Belmont Village Senior Living, which in March struck a partnership with Baptist Health South Florida.

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