‘Outrageously Powerful’: Senior Living Providers Wield Data to Fine-Tune Operations

Senior living operators have always relied on data to inform the future of their organization. But now, providers are using data and analytics-based insights to improve operations and make decisions in an increasingly short window.

By using data and analytics to inform operations and financial decision making, operators have been able to customize their product offerings to meet the needs of the changing face of the senior living customer of today.

One operator that has embraced data in everything it does is Priority Life Care, which is leaning on data to enable its middle-market senior living model.


“Data is going to be what we need to make sure people are happier and healthier in the future,” said Priority Life Care CEO Sevy Petras. “We believe in these tools that we’ve selected because they are outrageously powerful and they are going to adapt and grow.”

Investment in technology is a necessity for all operators regardless of scope to remain competitive and on the leading edge of change in the industry, which is amidst a surge in demand. Technology platforms help capture data on all things operations-based, and can help operators find solutions to key roadblocks, from hiring to elevating sales and marketing.

In 2023, other operators including Brightview Senior Living, Chelsea Senior Living and Watermark Retirement Communitiesare using data and building new platforms on which to execute on growth plans to achieve a stable and thriving bottom line while improving visibility for the future.


Making decisions with data

Tracking certain metrics gives operators a wealth of data they can use in operations. By gleaning as much information as possible from their operations, companies can also get ahead of their competitors, who may not be using such sophisticated methods.

Some of the industry’s largest players have made data a big focus for the future. For example, Ventas (NYSE: VTR) formally launched a data analytics and asset management platform called Ventas Operational Insights platform to drive better results on occupancy and margins among its operating partners.

Priority Life Care, based in Fort Wayne, Indiana, manages 26 communities owned by Ventas, and the partnership has resulted in new capital investment into buildings, improved occupancy and boosted financial performance for the cluster of communities dubbed its “Celebration” portfolio.

“We’re going to continue to get better and that data and that information is going to 100% impact our ability to figure out how to improve operations,” Petras told SHN.

Priority Life Care relies on two platforms, WelcomeHome and PointClickCare, to track data points of residents as soon as they move into a community.

Between those two data hubs lies August Health, which Priority Life Care recently partnered with to handle all onboarding for new residents and staff with its electronic health record (EHR) reporting system and other health-focused data tools. The company has intentionally partnered with multiple tech vendors — a “game-changer” for operations, Petras said.

“One of the things that frustrates me the most is that we collect all this data, [but] we didn’t have a way to share it in a centralized way before now,” she said.

A common issue among senior living operators is that, even though they are collecting all kinds of useful data, that data is not always used in a way that flows seamlessly across an organization. Part of the problem is that while there are many ways to collect data, there is not always a singular place or platform for that data to live.

For example, simple data points like meal preferences and other resident notes seem easy enough to collect and use when a resident lives in one care setting. But those data points are useless if they don’t carry over as someone moves to a higher level of care.

With Ventas’ backing and the right tech systems in place, Petras said PLC was “hyper-focused” on integrating data in order to make workers’ daily lives more seamless.

“My mission in life is to find paths and technology to make the jobs of our staff members easier,” Petras said. “There’s a wealth of data, we just haven’t been able to really tap into it.”

Meanwhile, Welltower’s (NYSE: WELL) data analytics platform has helped within the standup of its self-managed operating model, while also being able to identify “higher-and-better-use” assets and which operators to pair them to.

In the company’s latest update last month, CEO Shankh Mitra highlighted using cellphone data to show consumer patterns and migration habits, while also bringing investment and performance data together. Data is now precise enough to accurately predict resident rates within a multifamily or senior housing property within a range of error of just $10, which pairs with the company’s Alpha data science tool, Mitra highlighted.

Business intelligence gains appeal

Across the industry, there is a race to capture data and feed it back into operations. Instead of partnering with other companies to handle that for them, many operators are building their own tools with which to track and benchmark operations.

Data collection and analysis are paramount for success in the industry today, so much so that even operators that are just starting out have placed weight behind developing back-of-house systems prior to garnering a physical footprint.

Take Evolve Senior Living for example. Launched earlier this year by former Anthology Senior Living executives Andrew Agins and Justin Dickinson. Evolve Senior Living has yet to launch its management portfolio, but the duo have spent time in creating a data and analytics platform because they believe it will spell the difference between success and failure in a tough operating cost environment. 

The platform, known as Evolve Intelligence, will “remove the veil” that exists between operators and ownership groups, according to Agins. Armed with data, ownership groups can make more meaningful and strategic decisions on where to guide future investment.

The system will be a “centralized hub,” Agins said, offering that will allow investors to view various performance metrics across their respective portfolio.

“It shouldn’t be a tug of war between the operator and the owner where they’re fighting over data and those should be shared to create the right business plan for the operating team to execute on,” Agins told SHN.

That means crafting the Evolve Intelligence system to bring a fully-shared and transparent system to owners so they can view the same metrics as operating teams on the ground, Agins added. While that excludes patient health data, Agins said owners should have access to leading indicators and trends and data that could impact investment.

Watermark Retirement Communities uses an in-house data platform known as Watermark Connect that was launched five years ago. Within it exists an engagement center that tracks key performance indicators across the company’s portfolio, including tracking employee metrics to further professional development and leadership.

If a metric is lagging for a certain community, Watermark can craft a plan to improve the asset’s performance that is trackable within the platform, according to CEO David Barnes.

“We’ve spent a lot of money and time building this system because I am a passionate believer that if you just talk about data, odds are things aren’t going to change,” Barnes told SHN. “It’s bringing data to life.”

Chelsea Senior Living relies on the WellSky analytics EHR platform to help inform its operations, and it’s helped monitor quality at all levels across its portfolio, according to President and COO Roger Bernier. The effort was started last. year, with the system being operational over the last eight months.

Through tracking data on resident weight loss, falls and other biometrics, staff at Chelsea communities are able to create customized care plans for residents and make better decisions as new data is available, Bernier noted.

By having data systems integrated, from sales to health care, it reduces error in reporting and creates efficiencies for staff, something Bernier said all operators needed to be paying attention to.

“I think from a provider standpoint, [operators] will be looking at dashboards and it’s’ going to be critical moving forward,” Bernier said. “We’re still in the infancy of making sure our systems talk to one another, but data is going to be critical from measuring quality assurance to providing care.”

Driving business intelligence (BI) in senior living is on the rise, and operators are pivoting to finding systems that can bring actionable insights to bear. Brightview Senior Living uses Microsoft’s Power BI system, with the system integrating data from other tools including Automate, Power Apps, Azure and more, Director of Analytics Zach Zelefsky told SHN.

Brightview quantifies its success by tracking key data points, some of which include: associate and resident engagement and satisfaction, sales and occupancy and revenue and operating margin, Zelefsky said.

“Doing these things well will lead to strong results at the top,” Zelefsky added. “The art is in seeing the interconnectedness of these foundational operational metrics and having every associate know they play a critical role in the bigger picture of being a great place to work and great place to live.”

Going forward, Zelefsky said he believes operators that have the tools and properly trained staff will be the ones to succeed in digesting data into growth and new revenue generation.

“The presence of internal resources with strong data competencies is a key determinant of how successful system integration will be and the extent to which you can harness the full potential of your data,” Zelefsky said.

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