How Bickford, Merrill Gardens, New Perspective Use AI to ‘Think Differently’ About Operations

The phrase “artificial intelligence” might be an overused buzzword, but senior living operators are increasingly wielding it to improve operations.

Take it from Bickford Senior Living President Andy Eby. 

In recent years, Eby – once a NFL lineman – has shaped Bickford’s future into one that integrates data in operations and emphasizes transparency with consumers. Artificial intelligence and data analysis is the lynchpin that makes those efforts possible, he said during this week’s Argentum conference in Phoenix, Arizona.


“We have an opportunity to think differently and scale collective operations and leadership with AI,” Eby said. “We have the ability to scale the number of people that we have and the amount of intellectual property we have as an organization through data and information.”

Eby was joined by Merrill Gardens President Tana Gall and New Perspective Senior Living Co-CEO Chris Hyatt, and all three outlined the ways AI is improving senior living operations, providing staff efficiencies and, above all, improving resident care centered around fall prevention.

AI integration continues to improve care, operations

From changing how care is delivered to identifying potential leadership candidates, senior living operators are starting to make AI a bigger part of their operational diet. When it comes to senior living, artificial intelligence is a catch-all term that includes everything from large language models like ChatGPT to software that can analyze data and look for trends.


A key area where AI is allowing operators to innovate is through providing data related to resident care, equipping companies with the necessary data to move from basing resident care on anecdotal information to actual patterns and evidence.

This allows operators to better capture care revenue and have those difficult conversations with families, bringing empirical evidence to an emotionally-difficult process as community leaders sit down with resident families, Eby said.

“A significant shift needs to emerge,” Eby said. “This moves us from defense to offense and that’s a fundamental shift. We’re reactive as an industry, but AI allows us to shift from defense to offense and do things for the customer before things happen.”

While an adage in the industry post-2020 has been “do more with less,” Gall said AI and data integration allows organizations to “do it better with less,” from minimizing workloads of staff to providing more accurate care.

“It makes that communication piece go from anecdotes to reality in conversations with families,” Gall said.

Both Gall and Hyatt noted their respective skepticism to integrating AI into senior living operations, as technology enablement and integration into the daily operating routine of communities can sometimes be a “CapEx black hole,” Hyatt said.

But fast-forward to today, and New Perspective and Merrill Gardens have integrated fall-prevention technology from SafelyYou into their communities that have significantly reduced those incidents. SafelyYou works by using AI to monitor a resident room for potential falls and identifies patterns that could lead to a potential fall, notifying care staff when needed to prevent falls.

“We know where the future is going and it’s in tech-enablement,” Hyatt said, referencing how impactful fall prevention technologies had been at high acuity memory care neighborhoods.

After integrating SafelyYou, New Perspective response of care staff to a fall incident improved to two minutes and 57 seconds, a clear improvement over its previous average time of40 minutes to an hour.

“We’re increasing our levels of care and we don’t like having those conversations [with families] but the future of what we’re discussing is going to bring data not doughnuts to the equation,” Hyatt said.

New Perspective also created a new, vice president of innovation and optimization role to expand areas within the company that could benefit from analyzing data, Hyatt added.

Gall invoked the Nike slogan of “Just Do It” as an example of how eagerly operators should dive into using data and AI to support operations.

Merrill Garden’s AI capabilities have led to an increase of length of stay in memory care communities by an average increase of three additional months after integrating fall prevention technology.

“We needed to dive in,” Gall said during the panel. “Occupancy is king right now and the other great things that come from it are transparency, staff training and as a sales tool differentiator.”

Gall added that the integration of new data models and fall prevention technology at communities has “been revolutionary” for Merrill Gardens’ memory care properties.

Operators must create “strong tech partnerships” with vendors in order to improve operations, Ebay said. Before implementing fall prevention technology that passively monitors residents in a non-invasive manner, 92% of falls at Bickford communities went unwitnessed.

Hyatt noted how prior to implementing fall prevention technology, 97% of falls went unwitnessed at New Perspective communities, and 37 falls that would have otherwise went unreported because the resident got up on their own were captured to help shape care for resident recovery and future action.

“We are tired of competing on physical plant and amenities,” Hyatt said. “I want to tell prospects something we do that is uniquely different and to where price becomes secondary, and it’s important to use in sales and not be feature dumping.”

In the future, Eby envisioned a senior living landscape that used AI and data to provide even more nuanced information, from studying staff burnout to biometric data analysis like genome testing and chronic disease tracking to create deeper personal care plans.

“The pathway to all of those things is not very far off,” Eby told attendees on Monday.

For New Perspective, Hyatt said he wants AI and data models to help on a key sticking point for operations: bringing in new licensed care staff. He said the industry must consider a “GI Bill for nurses” that attempts to improve the state of caregiver careers as demographics skew older and people live longer nationwide.

“The challenge is finding nurses to meet the need today and take those administrative tasks off of our nurses,” Hyatt said.

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