As the broader healthcare industry recovers from the global COVID-19 pandemic, the senior living and long-term care industry is facing multiple challenges within the market. This segment of healthcare has undergone a rapid evolution that has changed the delivery of services to the aging population. During our recent FORVIS Healthcare Symposium, an entire learning track was dedicated to important considerations for the sustainability of the senior living and long-term care industry. Here are some of the key takeaways.
While not unique within healthcare, staffing challenges and workforce maintenance have become significant challenges within senior care. At the core of this issue is unaddressed burnout, where we see both clinicians and support staff still burdened from pandemic burnout, workforce shortages, and an increase in union activity. To make matters more difficult, competitive compensation, benefits, and flexible work arrangements have now become necessary to maintain the workforce. This profound change in wage-related economics cannot be sustained by the current reimbursement systems within the long-term care industry which is predominantly subsidized by third-party government payor. To maintain workforce capacity, there has to be a strategic change in third-party payment methodologies relative to caring for our aging population.
Continuum of Care Partnerships
Provider partnerships across the continuum of care are essential for care coordination and post-hospital care delivery. When deployed effectively, these partnerships have a positive impact on patient outcomes, patient experience, and overall operational efficiency. It is therefore crucial to implement processes that promote clear communication with both patients and providers. This involves choosing the appropriate setting for post-acute care, identifying strategic partners and referral sources, and maintaining accountability to providers across the continuum of care—all of which benefit both providers and patients.
Service Delivery Models
Enhancing service delivery in senior living and long-term care facilities will include a wide array of technological and strategic solutions, including automation, care mapping, use of clinical expertise, improved staffing models, better engagement, and improved care integration. Given the increasing demand for diverse and specialized services, post-acute organizations must utilize the newest technologies and creative solutions to deliver high-quality care.
Skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) play a vital role in the care continuum. Traditional Medicare has taken measures to add new value-based quality metrics aimed at reducing readmission rates, which disincentivizes facilities with continuous unfavorable healthcare outcomes. Other payor sources are quickly adopting similar outcomes-based metrics as a component of reimbursement. SNFs will need to consider how to balance their experience with traditional fee-for-service payment methodologies with evolving value-based care models.
Home-Based Versus Institutional
Home and community-based service providers, i.e., Medicare certified Home Health Agencies, Personal Care Service providers, and Non-Medical Home Care, continue to be a focus as alternative options for the care delivery of our senior population. However, the use of home and community-based services as an alternative to institutional care comes with challenges. Like so many other healthcare providers, these home- and community-based providers also have individualized concerns such as maintaining their workforce, balancing increased acuity, case management, and improving the quality of services and outcomes. The near-term growth of the senior population will create an increased demand for home-based services, and this provider niche will have to position itself to be ready for this demand.
There is no question that the COVID-19 global pandemic has had a tremendous effect on senior living and long-term care providers. However, the pandemic has created a sense of urgency that has challenged these providers to become more innovative with operations and care delivery. To remain successful in the long term, senior living and long-term care organizations will have to continue embracing these challenges. The aging population of our country depends on the longevity of our senior living and long-term care providers.
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