Integrated social–medical model presents opportunities for assisted living operators: panelists – News

Assisted living’s move from a social model to a medical model — or at least a hybrid model — presents marketing and other opportunities for providers, speakers said Wednesday during a leadership huddle hosted by the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care.

“It doesn’t have to be a choice between a hospitality or medical model,” said Jennifer Rucci, chief medical officer for Concord, NC-based Eventus WholeHealth. “I’d argue you can have both. You can still provide a very hospitable, warm, welcoming home to residents in assisted living but also embrace the role as care coordinator to medical service lines.”

Operators, however, Rucci said, are better off when medical services are delivered on-site to residents. The model lowers transportation costs, is convenient, leads to improved outcomes and helps retain residents longer, she added.

Rucci said she has seen clinical outcomes change as a result of on-site medical services, including reduced medical burdens, emergency department visits and falls. “The proposition for the operator is, if you have better care for residents and embrace that better care model, you retain residents better and also attract some,” she said. “Increasingly, families are expecting that, and so are residents.”

ALG Senior President and CEO Charles Trefzger, said that the Hickory, NC-based company implemented an integrated model to serve the increasing health needs of residents, take advantage of advancements in medicine and technology, and meet the expectations of residents and their families.

The integrated model, he said, helps keep residents in a community, and providers need to be a “collaborative team member of this team sport now being created,” he added.

“The easiest resident to obtain in our marketing worlds is the one we already have,” Trefzger said. “We need to focus on those folks in our communities and keep them there. When they go out the door, we are putting them in harm’s way.”

Michael Kwame Poku, M.D., senior medical director of Chicago-based Oak Street Health, said that as organizations move toward value-based care, primary care providers, specialists, residents and the senior living community must be aligned. 

“As we are getting better at this as a medical community, as a social community, as an assisted living community, and if we’re working together, we’re finding in order to achieve that next level of value that we need to bring other stakeholders in and really lock arms,” he said.

Changes and shifts to value on the national level are going to happen at a faster pace post-pandemic, Rucci said.

“You have a captive audience space of residents and patients, mostly government-insured. This is an opportunity to really make this population the first national population that will be in value-based contracts, no doubt about it,” she said. “It’s coming, and the faster and better we can work together to provide those clinical outcomes for residents, that’s in everyone’s interests, both medical and facility operators.”

Independent living, assisted living and senior care is a team sport, Trefzger said, and the primary care provider is the quarterback. But, he added, providers are an integral part of that team because they see residents 24/7.

“It’s up to the primary care provider to define the end goal with that resident and to work closely with that resident and communicate that to the providers,” he said. “Then allow the providers to work alongside them with medical specialties.”

Alignment of services lands squarely on providers, who need to create a network and then narrow it, reduce clinical variations and improve outcomes, Trefzger said. The result, he added, will be higher occupancy and reduced deficiencies. The move also will help providers from the standpoint of regulation that is coming out of the pandemic, he said.

“We are going to be evaluated on how well we comply with those rules and regulations,” Trefzger said. “If you have a lot of variation in your network, you’re not going to be able to comply with those expectations of the surveys. Our strategic analysis is, you own it, Mr. Provider.”

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