Caring for the frail and elderly has remained a near constant, but the manner and means of analyzing care is constantly revolving, and is changing everything for everyone, a diverse group of provider executives agree.

Convening Provider’s Executive Roundtable, Van Dyk Health Care President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Bob Van Dyk noted that “data seems to be king.”

“Can I assume that’s pretty much across the board, all of us are finding ourselves collecting data that perhaps in the past we never really paid much attention to?” he asked his colleagues.
Most agreed.

“I have been in the profession for many years, and I think our care has not changed a lot,” Sterling Healthcare CEO Bob Hagan said.

What has changed, though, is the demands of regulators for several different streams of information, Hagan said. “We’re a medium-sized company,” he said. “Having that ability to collect the data and put it out in the different ways that each of the different managed care [organizations] and [what] the state
wants is, I think, one of the biggest changes I’ve seen in the way we have to make an investment.”

The executives, gathered at the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living Annual Convention & Expo in October, largely acknowledged that they were beefing up their information technology departments to meet the demands of the Information Age. But while tech has been a great resource, it has created its own challenges, some of the executives said.

“I think one of the challenges is just when you engage these various products that they integrate with each other, so that you are not just working with three different systems that don’t talk to each other. And it is very costly,” Vetter Health Services’ Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Joani Schelm said.

There doesn’t seem to be any consensus about how to build those vital tech elements, though. Welcov Healthcare President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) Thomas Boerboom created his company’s own tech department earlier this year after discovering that outsourcing wasn’t answering Welcov’s needs, “and we really found that in order to get what we wanted, we needed to bring it in-house.”

Sterling’s Hagan decided simply to hire a different consultant. The key is to be patient, he said.
“I had to hire a smarter person than I was,” Hagan said. “We had been with the same software company for about 15 years … but they could not keep up with the demand at all.“

The transition has been “tough, very tough” on staff, “but it is coming together,” Hagan said.
The key to any tech moves, Prestige Care President and COO David Henderson said, is “to have a software company that will listen to the provider and make changes, because they’re not in the business [of operating] a nursing home.”

Care Initiatives Vice President and CFO Steve Marlow said that his company has decided to take its tech investments beyond regulatory requirements and put a lot of money into going on offense.

“What we’ve tried to do is really focus our investments now around analytics,” Marlow said. “So we’re doing a lot more in trying to mine our own data in preparation for some of the new payment model issues that are coming, like the bundled payment program.... Now, whether or not we ultimately go that far is still way up in the air, but we want to be in the position to know our data ourselves” before it becomes a government demand or issue.

Data analysis can also become part of frontline care, Vetter Health COO Patrick Fairbanks said.
“We’ve added additional nurse assessment coordinators’ support … to make sure that we are getting the right data going into it,” he said. “We’ve also hired a couple of health information managers at the home office level that … help us in understanding what is the right system that we should be using.”
In fact, good data analysis can put providers in a great position to capitalize on the revolutions in health care, Welcov Vice President Sharon Thole said.

“I think the hospitals don’t necessarily have a good strategic plan right now because their payment systems are all over the place,” Thole said. “So they’re looking at what their provider networks are going to look like, and who they want to line up with, and who is going to have those outcomes to help them.”

The opportunities may be an unintended consequence of the creeping spread of managed care, Avamere CEO John Morgan said.

“So you can call it whatever you want—ACO, NCO, CCO, ABCDO—they all have a similar flavor. And so they’re all very much about managing that total episode of care, trying to do it most  efficiently.

“And I think what we are trying to do is to come to them and find out where their bottlenecks really are,” he said. “And it’s been very interesting how that tide has shifted. Our relevance, in their minds, has gone up pretty dramatically, and so it’s not like you have to struggle to get an appointment these days.”