This article is sponsored by Savoy Life. In this Voices Interview, Senior Housing News sits down with Peter Emigh, Founder & CEO, Savoy Life, to talk about the challenges confronting community operators and residents of long-term care (LTC) communities, including issues involving compliance, operations, and gaps in care. He explains how Savoy Life is innovating to help communities navigate these challenges, and he shares his vision for the future landscape of senior living through that lens.
Senior Housing News: What career experiences do you most draw from in your role today?
Peter Emigh: In truth, I draw upon all my career and life experiences in some way. I think that’s important when you’re founding a new business. However, over the past six years, I had two opportunities that really shaped my thinking and perspective for senior care and house calls medicine.
The first was while I was operating what is called an institutional-equivalent special needs plan (IE-SNP) for a Medicare Advantage Health Plan. We had great support from the communities we served, but this was a care model offered through a health insurance product. What I learned was that not only is it hard to get individuals to switch their insurance, but when only a handful of residents in a given senior living community agree to switch their insurance to receive these benefits, it limits your reach. Given the benefits of this product, the limited reach was disappointing to me and to the communities we served.
The second learning came when I was leading a house calls medicine team that was focused on serving seniors and adults living with disabilities inside assisted living and adult care homes. In this role, we did so much good for the residents, their families, and the care communities where they resided. We really started to simplify the health care problem for the operators of these communities. However, again, the reach was part of the challenge because many individuals did not want to switch their primary care provider.
I should note that the economics of running a house calls program is challenging because it requires you to focus on larger facilities where you can obtain greater patient density. But after working in the industry for a considerable number of years and witnessing firsthand the disparity between the resources at larger communities versus those at smaller communities, it just felt wrong to ignore this problem. There is a tremendous need that exists within smaller, underserved residential care homes and facilities outside of major metro areas. Savoy Life was founded to address this need. Our core value — to engage — informs our approach to reach and engage these large populations that remain underserved so as to promote greater health equity.
What are the specific pain points for owners and operators of long-term care communities, and how have they traditionally overcome them?
There are so many challenges. Operationally, I think the staffing problems and the serious challenge to find qualified clinical staff is probably the largest issue facing these leaders. Compounding this fact is that the average acuity for residents in assisted living care has been rising for years. In many ways, the average acuity of an AL resident today is what you saw in a nursing home 30 or 40 years ago.
The residential long-term care industry is still so dependent on people, so while we’ve added electronic health records and some modest amounts of technology, like remote monitoring devices, the success of any community still rests largely upon the shoulders of the people delivering the care. While people can do amazing things, quality caregiving can be difficult or impossible to achieve when you’re dealing with high staff turnover and vacancies in numerous key roles. The staffing crisis really underpins so many of the challenges facing operational leaders in the industry today.
Tell us about Savoy Life. What does it seek to do? What inspired you to create it? Who is likely to benefit from the services you offer?
I was inspired to create Savoy Life to solve for the lack of an acceptable baseline quality of care across the wide spectrum of communities that seek to serve seniors and adults living with disability. Many people suffer as a consequence. This happens because health care providers have not figured out how to consistently meet the needs of the residents in long-term care or the operators of these communities. Frankly, the residents of long-term care are not best served by the infrequent twenty-minute PCP visit, which oftentimes requires transportation to the clinic. And the community operators are not well-served when they are juggling the care and transportation needs of their residents across dozens of PCPs and specialists. It’s just a broken setup, and it is only going to get worse as millions of Baby Boomers age on and need long-term care. I can’t perfectly predict what residential long-term care will look like in 10, 15, 20 years, but I can say it needs to change if it is to meet the needs of millions of seniors, 40-plus percent of whom have nothing saved for retirement. This health care problem is a big part of it. We need to stop accommodating a rigid health care model that is a poor fit and instead design a health care solution that is tailored to support the unique needs of owners, operators, and residents in long-term care.
As a mission-led individual who derives great fulfillment from breaking down barriers to health care, I knew this was a problem we could address with a new approach. Savoy Life is a first-of-its-kind company, integrating virtual clinical services, remote technology, and a wrap-around care model with geriatrics and geriatric psychiatry to make health care work better for residential long-term care communities, their residents, and their families.
Perhaps most notably, and what I believe truly differentiates us, is that Savoy Life was purpose-built to deliver a solution that can reach the hardest-to-reach communities. To maximize our impact, we don’t target our services to individual patients. Rather, we serve seniors and adults living with disability through our assisted living community partners. We empower the senior living operator to deliver high-quality care by designing our services to address their needs so that they, in turn, may best serve the residents of their community.
By offering a solution that reaches even the most hard-to-serve communities and that scales down to that n-of-one, personalized level, we believe we can help all seniors and adults living with disability to overcome health care barriers.
What has been the overall response from community managers when they learn about your company and its offerings? How does Savoy Life differ from other virtual health care platforms?
When we were recruiting interest for our pilot, the first sign that we were on the right path was that we were quickly oversubscribed for the pilot program. We’ve had numerous conversations with stakeholders in the market, and what we hear time and time again from our early customers and others, is that the line of communication between senior living communities and health care providers is fundamentally broken.
Community owners and managers simply don’t get the consistent partnership they need from the health care resources to run their businesses and to serve their residents. This results in bad things for the residents, like lack of access to care which leads to poor health outcomes. It also results in poor outcomes for the community like fines for noncompliance of regulations, delays in the delivery of required plans of care, avoidable escalations to higher levels of care, and other setbacks that affect resident move-in and retention rates, all of which negatively impact the bottom line. Then there’s high staff turnover due to burnout. Individuals who run these communities are continuously challenged by the health care system to do their very best. But when you make a simple task much more difficult, it contributes to burnout.
That’s not to say that there aren’t health care providers and companies out there working to serve seniors and adults living with disability in these communities. Clearly, there are. However, the problem is that many of them only do so for their patients which contributes to the fragmentation of care inside these communities and the root issues contributing to sub-optimal outcomes. This is what fundamentally makes Savoy Life different. Where others are looking at the patient and saying, “How do I help him or her?” We look at the community and the managers in those communities and ask, “How do I help you elevate care for your entire community? How do I help you address your most pressing operational needs?”
What role does technology play in helping Savoy Life to support operators and residents of long-term care communities? How will the tech evolve looking at the future of the long-term care industry?
Technology plays a huge role in Savoy Life. Many health care companies out there will say they are tech-enabled, but few have developed their entire business model and engineered their operations around technology. That’s something else that differentiates us. We are a completely virtual company which allows us to reach and scale in ways and places that others can’t.
To be fully virtual, we need remote technology to enable our clinical staff and our team of experts to best serve the needs of our community partners. I think this is actually not just critical for us and our model, but it’s also critical for our community partners. Because, again, when you look at these organizations, the traditional way that they’ve tackled everything is through their people.
When everything is people-threaded, it creates challenges because, while people are great, they are also flawed. If, let’s say, a resident is getting up four times in the middle of the night and going to the bathroom, that’s not typically seen by a caregiver. If that same individual can’t necessarily communicate what’s going on particularly well for a variety of reasons, it can go unnoticed that that individual has a UTI. A UTI can become a serious ailment that drives people to the hospital. It can contribute to a whole host of downstream impacts that could result in an individual leaving long-term care and moving to higher levels of institutional care, which leads to greater strain on an already overburdened health care system.
Technology can fill some of these gaps and augment the services that caregivers are providing. It removes some of the pressure on those delivering their best and helps them pinpoint their interventions much better. We’re getting the data points so our nursing team is well-informed about how we can best support and serve each community partner. I think that really helps us deliver a more comprehensive offering.
People, however dedicated, can only do so much. That’s why we are laser-focused on bringing technology to these communities and pairing them with a compassionate team of clinical experts that can take full advantage of what that technology offers. Through our partnerships with each community, we can help them to do what they do best, and we can intervene where we’re needed.
Why do long-term care communities need a company like Savoy Life? What do these solutions mean for owners and operators of long-term care communities, as well as their residents, families, and durable powers of attorney?
Long-term care community owners and operators need a company like Savoy Life because health care plays too large a role in influencing and driving important business metrics to be a variable that’s outside their control – full stop. With the acute challenges facing the long-term care industry that we’ve talked about here, plus the massive opportunity in front of us with the oldest of 73 million baby boomers entering their late seventies, leaders in this industry really need to think about how they adapt their approaches to combat those challenges.
For long-term care owners and operators, I think the simplest way to put it is that with a solution like Savoy Life, they can improve their operating margins while simultaneously delivering better health outcomes to residents. As a result, they can invest more in their business models. They can expand their offerings to serve broader audiences, and they can grow to meet the evolving needs of today’s seniors.
For residents, their families, and their DPOAs, a solution like Savoy Life provides peace of mind. It’s knowing that a solution exists within the community wherever they choose to live, that doesn’t just meet their needs but anticipates their needs. It’s knowing that they have a solution that is comprehensive in nature – a solution that empowers them to live the life that matters most to them.
In a couple of words, finish this sentence: “In 2023, the senior living industry is being defined by…”
…challenge, change, and choice.
Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity
Savoy Life is a healthcare delivery and technology company that is building digital solutions that enable LTC communities to plug critical healthcare gaps, streamline operational workflows, improve compliance adherence, and increase the quality of life for seniors who call LTC establishments home. Learn more at savoylife.com and follow us on social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube).
The Voices Series is a sponsored content program featuring leading executives discussing trends, topics and more shaping their industry in a question-and-answer format. For more information on Voices, please contact [email protected].