The Role of Innovation in Rebuilding the Senior Care Industry
The senior care industry has faced significant challenges in the last year, and in many cases, practices that worked a year ago are now insufficient or ineffective. As the industry continues to rebuild and move forward, innovation has become more important than ever.
Reassessing the Senior Care Industry
Dr. Jay LaBine, Chief Medical Officer of naviHealth, explains that innovation will play a crucial role in reassessing and moving forward in the senior care industry.
“The pandemic exposed several flaws in our healthcare system – and especially in senior care,” he says. “We now need to look critically and collaboratively at what we’ve seen and learned over the last year and examine how we need to change going forward to ensure that older adults have access to the care and support they need.
“Innovation is a critical part of this, and we have to be considering innovation across several aspects of senior care – care delivery, care transitions, how we use technology, how we measure quality, how we better leverage data, and how we collaborate across providers and payers to ensure all seniors have access to the best care tailored to their needs when and where they need it.”
LaBine notes that there are several interesting areas of focus within this approach. “The future of telehealth and the post-pandemic evolution of virtual care is one. Older adults adapted well to telehealth, and we have great opportunities to think expansively about how to bring new types of care and services to this audience,” he explains.
“Social determinants of health represent another important area. We know what a tremendous impact social determinants – from food instability to access to transportation – can have on older adults’ health and outcomes, and we have to advance how we consider and address these factors as part of a patient’s journey.”
Senior Care Challenges of the Coming Year
LaBine highlights the fact that the senior care industry will face plenty of challenges in the coming year. “With the headlines about more than 40 percent of all COVID deaths being reported at a nursing home or other skilled nursing facility, senior care leaders have some work to do in regaining trust, rebuilding reputations, and reemphasizing their commitment to the people they serve,” he explains. LaBine identifies the following key priorities for the senior care industry:
- Ensuring quality care – and quality of life for seniors. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done to change both the physical environment and model of care inside many facilities.
- Keeping seniors safer and well cared outside of facilities. The clock is ticking to find a new solution that can provide seniors with high-intensity services to address both clinical and nonclinical needs in the safety of their homes.
- Implementing a more holistic approach to care that includes and prioritizes social determinants of health. Issues like food insecurity, lack of access to medicines, and concerns about home safety dramatically impact the health and wellbeing of seniors and much can be addressed along with acute health needs and the management of chronic diseases.
Adopting Innovative Payment Models
According to LaBine, innovation drives many types of alternative payment models, including bundles and ACOs. He highlights how the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) uses Medicare pilot programs to test new ways of improving the quality of patient care while lowering costs.
“This year’s program focuses on the response to President Biden’s Executive Order to improve overall Medicare for seniors and the model includes a mandatory wellness and health care planning component. We can learn from these test programs on how they manage different forms of care and whether these are feasible models that can be adapted long-term,” he explains.
CMMI has a new director in place, and continues to reevaluate its payment models and the issues related to access, affordability, equity, and enhanced primary care. “Innovation is happening across the board and we may eventually see a number of changes in the coming months and years as the administration looks to change alternative payment models in hopes of transforming the healthcare ecosystem,” says LaBine.
Adopting Innovative Technology
Payment models are just one area where innovation can help support and expand the industry. Technological advancements are another. LaBine notes that there are many innovative tools on the horizon, including remote patient monitoring and sensoring tools, that can help facilities to provide better quality, more efficient care.
“Leveraging new technology is transforming the patient experience,” notes LaBine. “But as sophisticated as healthcare IT solutions have become, they will never completely replace smart-touch solutions in the delivery of medical care. We must have the human touch; care coordinators engaging with seniors to help navigate and follow up with the patient and ensure he/she is following the recommended care plan.”
The pandemic brought many technological advancements to the forefront, particularly when it comes to telehealth. LaBine predicts that increased focus will fall on virtual rehabilitation platforms that allow seniors to access these rehabilitation services from their homes. “An example would be virtual cardiac rehab which allows patients to complete their therapy without driving to an outpatient center multiple times a week,” he says.
Innovation and Moving Forward
Increased innovation can help senior care facilities to meet the changing expectations and challenges that have come with the pandemic. From adopting new payment models to implementing new technology, facilities can meet challenges and continue to build resident and public trust. While the pandemic has greatly transformed the industry, the challenges it has poised have driven innovation, and that innovation can be the key forward.
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