At the beginning of this week, my colleague Lisa Rodriguez and I had the opportunity to attend the Senior Living Innovation Forum in Santa Barbara. The Senior Living Innovation Forum is put on by the Influence Group, which is an organization that produces invite-only leadership forums and custom content for a variety of industries.
The purpose of this event is to bring together the thought leaders and key executives in our profession to network with other providers that are trying to disrupt the status quo in our industry, and also gives suppliers the opportunity to have substantive conversations with the key executives from the leading senior living communities throughout the country. Through all of the sessions, activities and side bar conversations at the conference there seemed to be some clear themes threaded throughout the event that you might be interested in.
Health Does Not Equal Healthcare
Bob Kramer, founder and strategic adviser of the National Investment Center of Senior Care and Lynne Katzmann, founder and CEO of Juniper Communities, both talked about the idea that health goes beyond healthcare. For most people their overall health and well-being is not primarily determined by traditional medical care but by the social determinants of health (housing, behaviors, lifestyle, relationships, etc.). Lynne Katzmann even went as far as to suggest that because of our expertise in addressing these social determinants that senior living is "the solution for the healthcare crisis". Just think about it. Our communities provide a “greenhouse” like environment where people can receive medical care, engage in meaningful relationships, and have the security provided by an enriching living environment. Ms. Katzmann went on to stress that we need to position ourselves in the healthcare system as a solution to what ails it. We need to ensure we have a seat at the table as healthcare evolves. Along these lines, Rick Fedrizzi, the CEO and Chairman of the International WELL Being Institute presented the WELL rating system. He and his team have developed this system for buildings to be able to measure their impact on an inhabitant’s overall well-being from the lighting, to the flooring, to the wall coverings, to the design, to the furniture, etc. He stressed that all these things in the physical environment affect the overall well-being of the individual. In summary, the speakers articulated that senior living has the building blocks in place to be able to take care of the whole person and should continue to try to position themselves in the ever changing healthcare system to be a solution for people's overall health and well-being.
Over the last decade, technology has consistently been a popular topic at conferences in our profession. At the forum this year we talked about ways in which we could leverage technology to improve the financial health of our communities, improve our residents' overall health and well-being, and help us both acquire new talent as well as retain that talent for our workforce. Technology ultimately is going to allow us to be able to do more with less. It will those in post-acute care an entry point into some of the strategic partnerships that we need with hospitals and payers in order to be successful in the future. Technology will also be a big part of helping us improve the health of people in their homes. At the forum we heard from Jay Newton-Small the CEO of Memory Well a company that uses technology and a national network of journalists to tell the stories of older adults in senior living communities. Recently, she has been approached by insurance companies because sharing the residents stories with their care takers has served to actually improve the quality of care that the care takers have been providing the residents in their communities. We also heard from Craig Patnode, CEO at Eldermark, who shared how his technology would assist senior living communities in tracking the “true cost” of providing care to their residents and in return help them significantly improve their margins. Lastly, we heard from Dr. Yulun Wang from InTouch Health who has developed telehealth technology that gives clinicians the ability to see patients remotely and even be able to go as far as seeing whether a patient's pupils are dilated or whether the right side of their body is running more warm than the left. Technology continues to advance at the speed of light and will change our world, and our industry, whether we are ready or not.
The Role of Therapy Across the Healthcare Continuum
After attending multiple sessions and having numerous conversations with key executives in our profession, I came away with some increased clarity on the ways in which therapy fits into the future of senior living. First, independent and assisted living are extremely interested in having physical, occupational, and/or speech therapists on-site so they can help assess the residents' needs and proactively address some of the issues that might cause pain, injury or even hospitalization. Many of them see therapists as a vital part of the fabric of their community and believe they play an important role in helping their residents stay healthy. Secondly, therapy will to continue to be an important part of the healthcare continuum for older adults. Although the delivery of therapy might look different in the future, it will continue to be a critical way to help residents achieve their highest quality of life.
In summary, the Senior Living Innovation Forum served to inspire, encourage, and reinvigorate my belief in what we can do together to help older adults achieve their highest quality of life in their last years of life. It was a breath of fresh air to be around individuals that not only are looking to set the pace in our profession but are driven by a deep care and concern for the older adults we serve.