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A Closer Look at the Post-acute Care Opportunity for Senior Living

A new landscape is emerging that is presenting senior living with a bold proposition — to become the preferred residence to meet the post-acute care needs. The question is, do assisted living communities see the opportunity ahead?

Offering post-acute care is a natural extension for many assisted living providers, given the nature of their existing business, according to Jason Principe, PointClickCare’s Segment Marketing Manager for senior living.

Shifting demographics and the changing healthcare landscape are fuelling this possibility for assisted living; an industry that is already accustomed to caring for people with multiple ailments — and an industry that, in many cases, can do so at a lower cost than most skilled nursing facilities or hospitals can.

The New Normal
Nowadays, assisted living residents entering the community are older — and frailer — than they’ve ever been. In the past, the average senior living resident moved into a community when he or she was about 72-years-old and had one or two chronic conditions. Now, the average resident moves in at age 83 and often has three or more chronic conditions.

In short, assisted living communities are already accustomed to providing the level of care that many post-acute patients need.

“People are moving into assisted living later, so more health care is required in assisted living communities,” Principe explains. “Consequently, assisted living communities already have a good footing to be part of that post-acute care space.”

In other words, assisted living communities can, generally speaking, provide a lot of the care—if not all of the care—that a skilled nursing facility does during a patient’s short-term stay, Principe says.

“Take someone recovering from a stroke,” he explains. “They don’t have to go to a skilled nursing facility for a short-term stay. They can move into an assisted living community, and that community can handle their care.”

On top of it all, in many ways, assisted living communities can administer care more efficiently than other post-acute providers.

“One of the benefits that assisted living has is that they can deliver the care at a lower cost,” Principe says. “If a patient is leaving a hospital after a knee replacement, and they need somewhere to stay for 10 to 14 days to recover, it’s more cost-effective to go to assisted living than to stay in a skilled nursing facility.”

And the amount of people needing post-acute care is on the rise. The number of Americans who are 65 and older is anticipated to almost double from 48 million in 2015 to 88 million by 2050, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Soon, many of them will be banging down post-acute providers’ doors.

Capitalizing On The Opportunity
To capitalize on this post-acute opportunity, assisted living communities have to put themselves on hospitals’ radars.

“The onus is on assisted living to make hospitals aware that they are good post-acute partners,” Principe says. “Right now, hospitals are just more comfortable relying on skilled nursing facilities.”

Still, just being on the radar isn’t enough, Principe says.

“If they want accountable care organizations (ACOs), hospitals, or major health networks to refer patients to them, assisted living communities must deliver care efficiently, and be able to prove it,” he explains.

This is where having the right senior living technology comes in. Assisted living communities need the good, shareable, real-time data that electronic health records (EHRs) provide in order to prove themselves as worthwhile post-acute partners. Communities without this data are likely to fall out of contention.

August 9, 2016