Aligning Needs and Expectations: Best Practices for Acute Care and Senior Care Collaboration
The desire and necessity to improve seniors’ healthcare experience presents both opportunity and motivation for improved collaboration between acute and senior care providers. Recently a roundtable brought together stakeholders from strategic and geographic aligned acute care and senior living organizations to work collaboratively together to answer the question “How can hospitals and senior living providers work better together?”
Finding a mutually beneficial model for patients, residents and both organizations requires open mindedness on the part of all participants, but particularly for senior living communities. As Jim Lucy, COO New Dawn-StoneRidge Poplar Run, shared during a recent roundtable on seniors with industry leaders from the senior living and healthcare sectors, “If senior living wants to play a greater role, they have to find out the hospital’s needs and align their capabilities with that need.”
Successful partnerships are based on good communication, which means key contacts need to be identified early on to ensure a smooth flow of information. And, just as care transitions and quality of life improve for patients and residents when acute and senior living providers collaborate, hospitals benefit from finding solutions to reduce readmissions, thereby reducing penalties. Fewer penalties mean more resources to support high-quality care.
So how are senior communities responding? Clearly they benefit from helping their residents stay healthy, living their best lives for as long as possible. Participants in the Roundtable said that ensuring their acute care partners understand what they offer removes barriers to referrals. Disclosing communities’ quality metrics is an important early step. In addition to readmission data, hospitals want to know quality outcomes. Using the data communities collect to demonstrate the quality of care provided—for example, infection rates or falls—are two key indicators that can affect hospital reimbursement. Steve Lindsey, CEO of Garden Spot Village, shared that high quality is a basic requirement to engage in partnerships, so it’s important to ensure that organizational metrics are up to the test.
When hospitalizations occur, acute care providers want to partner with senior living providers that will be able to effectively manage patients’ post-discharge care. This includes reducing patients’ length of stay, reducing hospital readmissions and improving clinical outcomes at all levels, benefitting patients by enabling them to go home healthier and more quickly. Communications between the primary care physician or primary care group and the senior community must be well established to facilitate desired outcomes.
For their part, senior communities are increasingly proactive about keeping residents healthy. Demonstrating initiative, i.e., how potential issues are addressed, is important to hospital partners, residents and families. For example, the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society used a grant to evaluate the efficiency and savings provided by tele-monitoring. Staff in a remote data center monitors individual residents’ data for patterns or anomalies. The community’s staff is alerted when a resident is found to be at risk. For example, one individual was found to be sleeping upright. Diagnosed with COPD, the resident was treated before any negative health issues occurred, averting a possible emergency hospital admission.
Expanded use of technology, including telemedicine, in senior communities enables providers to address potential issues before they escalate, improving residents’ quality of life, family satisfaction and referrals. Another approach shared by Post-Acute Care Director Donna Manning of Grand View Hospital is the presence of an onsite Skilled Nursing Facility Specialist, which ensures that her organization’s resources are being used appropriately. These doctors serve patients and residents, increasing accessibility, establishing long-term relationships, resulting in fewer transfers to the hospital.
As the nation’s population ages and health care reform puts more pressure on both acute care and senior living providers, collaboration and innovation are essential to ensure they survive and thrive. There are great opportunities for both partners—and their patients and residents—to benefit.
Joseph Cuticelli is CEO of Seniors for Sodexo North America and responsible for more than 400 senior living locations across the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. Mr. Cuticelli sponsored the 2015 Seniors Roundtable because he believes that senior living communities and healthcare institutions have the opportunity and the responsibility to work more closely to improve the patient experience and quality of life after an illness or injury.