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Recouping Business Post-COVID-19<p>It’s no secret long term care (LTC) facilities were among those hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. As of June 1, <a href="https&#58;//www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-nursing-homes.html" target="_blank">more than 1.38 million people</a> across approximately 32,000 LTC facilities in the United States had contracted the virus.</p><p>Thankfully, widespread vaccinations have drastically slowed down the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes and other LTC facilities. In fact, data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services show there has been a nearly <a href="https&#58;//data.cms.gov/stories/s/COVID-19-Nursing-Home-Data/bkwz-xpvg/" target="_blank">99 percent decline</a> in new COVID-19 cases among nursing home residents from Dec. 20, 2020, to June 14. <br></p><p>With this clinical crisis now largely under control, operators have been able to turn their attention to the pandemic’s longer-lasting business ramifications. For one, occupancy in skilled nursing facilities hit an all-time low in December after dropping 13.3 percentage points from February 2020, according to the <a href="https&#58;//info.nic.org/nic-map-skilled-nursing-data-monthly-report?utm_campaign=2020_09_29_NIC_MAP_skilled_nursing_monthly&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;_hsmi=114192658&amp;_hsenc=p2ANqtz-8YAyAyDstYx8XRceHcRDt9-wXePJTa3p-AUE8AO716sAudmq27v_RpSFlhFGZ3iqGc74RpzLrbnZFul5DNr7YOXuw92EB1hUsjVZpP4gahEwPKm-k&amp;utm_content=114192658&amp;utm_source=hs_email" target="_blank">National Investment Center for Seniors Housing &amp; Care.</a></p><p>Today, census is ticking upward, and LTC facilities remain essential care settings for aging Americans. But with relatively low margins in the skilled nursing and senior living sectors and a worsening national caregiver shortage, operators of these facilities are at a pivotal point where recovery is key.</p><h2>Securing State and Federal Support </h2><p>To support the industry’s recovery, it will be critical to get more funding for providers at both state and federal levels in 2021, said American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Parkinson at MatrixCare’s Inspire 2021 event, held virtually March 5-6. </p><p>The $1.9 trillion stimulus bill President Biden signed into effect on March 11 included $350 billion for states, territories, and localities. According to Parkinson, this funding provided an opportunity for states to shore up their Medicaid programs and continue supporting LTC facilities within their states. For those that hadn’t provided adequate support, it was an opportunity to step up to the plate.</p><p>ACHA and NCAL are continuing to advocate for more federal relief as well. Parkinson noted at Inspire that there is approximately $32.5 billion left in the provider relief fund, and he hopes that organizations will be able to access that fund to provide additional support for both skilled nursing and assisted living communities. <br></p><h2>Taking Action Internally</h2><p>With external factors continuing to evolve, it’s important LTC facilities employ their own strategies to rebuild occupancy and recoup business this year. Technology is a good place to start, as it’s one of the only solutions that can promptly and effectively address the myriad challenges providers find themselves facing today. Below are three key areas providers should consider as they evaluate their current technology or others on the market based on their abilities to aid in recovery.</p><p><em>Leveraging Data Analytics&#58; </em>With resources tight, it’s critical LTC facilities operate as efficiently as possible. Data analytics allow providers to replace manual number crunching with targeted action by producing tailored insights that can serve as a road map for improving business and resident care.</p><p>For example, predictive analytics can analyze patient data and guide clinical workflow toward the highest-risk residents, while traditional analytics can track key performance indicators in real time and identify areas for improvement.</p><p><em>Strengthening Referrals&#58;</em> Referrals are critical for rebuilding census. Interoperability, namely electronic data sharing, is a key factor for acute and ambulatory care providers when choosing where to send their patients in post-acute care. In fact, <a href="https&#58;//go.matrixcare.com/LP-CORP-2021-03-Interoperability.html" target="_blank">78 percent of referring providers</a> said they’re likely to send more referrals to skilled nursing facilities that can support advanced interoperability workflows and seamless electronic data exchange. With this, adopting interoperability becomes a business strategy for capturing and maintaining a steady flow of referrals.</p><p><em>Scaling and Diversifying a Business&#58;</em> An important strategy for LTC facilities this year and in the years ahead will be leveraging core competencies to differentiate and diversify care models and offerings. Diversifying care into adjacent programs, such as skilled nursing at home, will allow facilities to tap into the rising demand for aging in place and recover business faster. Working with a technology provider that offers purpose-built solutions for a number of post-acute care settings is critical to this strategy, making it easier to scale while keeping operations streamlined under one core solution.</p><p>While it’s impossible to control external factors like federal relief and regulations, facilities today have an opportunity to evaluate their technology strategy with an eye toward maximizing existing resources, improving connectivity, and scaling for the future. Doing so will help providers recover in the near term and succeed for the long term.<br><br><em><strong>Gary Pederson</strong> is executive vice president, Facility Division, at <a href="https&#58;//www.matrixcare.com/" target="_blank">MatrixCare</a>, the country’s largest post-acute care technology provider. He has over 25 years of experience in health technology, including time spent at Cerner, Toshiba Medical Systems, and Siemens Medical. Pederson can be reached at <a href="mailto&#58;Gary.Pederson@matrixcare.com" target="_blank">Gary.Pederson@matrixcare.com</a>.</em><br>​</p>2021-07-14T04:00:00Z<img alt="" src="/Topics/Special-Features/PublishingImages/2021/0721/0721_MatrixCare.jpg" style="BORDER&#58;0px solid;" />COVID-19;Management;PolicyGary PedersonWith the clinical crisis largely under control, it’s time for providers to assess what technical strategies they will need to adopt to rebuild census.
Senior Housing Industry Continues to Feel Effects of Pandemic<p>Senior housing occupancy showed no overall change in the second quarter of 2021, maintaining at 78.7 percent, according to new National Investment Center for Seniors Housing &amp; Care (NIC) MAP® data, generated by NIC MAP Vision.</p><p>Although COVID-19 cases in senior living properties continued to drop significantly in the last quarter, overall occupancy has not increased, which NIC attributes to new inventory coming online.</p><p>Despite unchanged occupancy, demand for senior housing improved in the second quarter.</p><p>“Second quarter data confirm anecdotes that occupancy at many properties improved as move-ins accelerated, thanks to limited property-level COVID-19 infections,” said NIC Chief Economist Beth Burnham Mace. “However, inventory grew and outpaced demand, and that’s why we aren’t seeing an occupancy uptick.”</p><p>Both assisted living and independent living properties experienced little change in occupancy, with independent living holding steady at 81.8 percent, and assisted living rising slightly to 75.5 percent.</p><p>San Jose (83.7 percent), Portland, Ore. (83.4 percent), and San Francisco (83.4 percent) had the highest occupancy rates of the 31 metropolitan markets that encompass NIC MAP’s Primary Markets. The markets experiencing the lowest occupancy rates included Houston (73.0 percent), Atlanta (74.8 percent), and Las Vegas (74.9 percent).</p><p>Looking further at the data, occupancy increases are being reported by a growing number of operators. In the second quarter of 2021, without breaking down percentages by care settings, 47 percent of senior housing properties in the NIC MAP Primary Markets reported an increase in occupancy. During the height of the pandemic, only 22.5 percent of properties reported occupancy increases.</p><p>“Some areas of the country are seeing senior housing occupancy improve, but the data show that we haven’t fully turned the corner,” said Chuck Harry, NIC’s chief operating officer. “Senior housing occupancy remaining unchanged suggests that it will likely take more time to see broad, nationwide improvement to the levels prior to the onset of the pandemic.”</p><p>There is a wide gap in performance between markets in NIC MAP’s Primary Markets. In Atlanta and Detroit, 55 percent of properties reported overall occupancy improvement, compared with just 33 percent of properties in Chicago.<br></p>2021-07-13T04:00:00Z<img alt="" src="/Breaking-News/PublishingImages/740%20x%20740/0320_News4.jpg" style="BORDER&#58;0px solid;" />COVID-19;ManagementJoanne EricksonDespite unchanged occupancy, demand for senior housing improved in the second quarter.
Access to Remaining Relief Funds Needed to Keep Long Term Care Facilities Afloat<p>​Nursing homes and assisted living communities have received approximately $14 billion of the $178 billion in the Provider Relief Fund (PRF) established by the CARES Act. This funding has been instrumental for long term care facilities struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic, but the remainder of the funds must be released so providers can continue to provide quality care to the nation’s seniors, according to the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL).

</p><p>A recent AHCA/NCAL <a href="https&#58;//www.ahcancal.org/News-and-Communications/Press-Releases/Pages/Survey-Only-One-Quarter-Of-Nursing-Homes-Confident-They-Will-Make-It-Through-to-Next-Year.aspx" target="_blank">survey found</a> that 92 percent of nursing homes and 62 percent of assisted living communities said the PRF has been helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic. The same survey found facilities continue to face significant ongoing economic challenges.<br></p><p>Only one-quarter of long term care providers were confident they will make it through to next year. Without additional government support, facilities may be forced to close. In fact, a recent AHCA/NCAL <a href="https&#58;//d3dkdvqff0zqx.cloudfront.net/groups/ahca/attachments/protect%20access%20to%20long%20term%20care_ib.pdf" target="_blank">analysis found </a>that nearly 2,000 nursing homes could shut their doors for good over the course of the pandemic. </p><p>

Increased costs from the pandemic for personal protective equipment (PPE), testing, and additional staffing, among other necessities, have put a strain on providers. Coupled with fewer new residents and patients, as well as longstanding Medicaid underfunding, many facilities are struggling to stay afloat. These facilities are home to millions of frail seniors who cannot afford for them to abruptly shut down and be forced to find new care.

“</p><p>The Provider Relief Fund was a lifesaver for many in long term care last year,” said Mark Parkinson, president and chief executive officer of AHCA/NCAL. “Whether it helped acquire PPE to protect residents and staff from COVID-19 or allowed providers to offer hero pay to workers who went above the call of duty, we are grateful to the federal government for helping us during this historically challenging time.”<br></p><p>While overall the situation has improved, he said, this battle with the virus is not over, and now the sector faces a new battle.<br></p><p>“Our sluggish economic recovery puts thousands of facilities in danger of closing, threatening access to long term care for vulnerable seniors and individuals with disabilities,” he said. “We call on the administration to distribute the remaining aid that was intended for health care providers and help bring stability to our sector, so we can continue serving our residents.”</p><p>

The PRF aid allows for facilities to offset some of the exorbitant costs of care stemming from the pandemic and relieve some of the burden providers face on a daily basis. <br></p><p>The initial funding in 2020 has been the difference between many facilities closing or being able to stay open, Parkinson said, but in 2021, as the pandemic persists and the economic recovery of the industry is slow, more is needed. 
</p><p>Members of Congress agree that long term care facilities need more federal aid. A <a href="https&#58;//www.ahcancal.org/Reimbursement/Documents/Congressional%20PRF%20Request%20to%20HHS.pdf" target="_blank">letter</a> sent to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) led by Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), co-signed by more than 50 Democrat and Republican members of Congress, requested an additional $10 billion from the PRF to be allocated to long term care facilities. 

</p><p>The PRF aid has already made a major impact on facilities across the nation, but the road to recovery does not end here, AHCA/NCAL said. Continued support is needed to win the fight and protect long term care residents and staff. Lawmakers must make long term care a top priority, and that begins with HHS releasing the remainder of the PRF so the nation’s health care heroes can continue serving the nation’s most vulnerable.</p>2021-07-13T04:00:00Z<img alt="" src="/Breaking-News/PublishingImages/740%20x%20740/housing.jpg" style="BORDER&#58;0px solid;" />ManagementJoanne EricksonWithout support, nearly 2,000 nursing homes could shut their doors for good over the course of the pandemic.
AHCA Expands Board to Add Leaders from Michigan, D.C.<p>​The American Health Care Association (AHCA) has expanded the size of its Board of Governors and elected two new members to at-large positions&#58; Reginald (Reggie) Hartsfield of Michigan and Tina Sandri of Washington, D.C.<br></p><p>Hartsfield is president and owner of Advantage Living Centers, and Sandri is chief executive officer (CEO) of Forest Hills of D.C.<br></p><p><img src="/PublishingImages/Headshots/MarkParkinson.jpg" alt="Mark Parkinson, CEO" class="ms-rtePosition-2" style="margin&#58;5px;width&#58;115px;height&#58;141px;" />“We are fortunate to have Tina and Reggie joining our board. They are both extraordinary leaders in long term care, and their knowledge and passion will be crucial for our sector during this extremely challenging time,” said AHCA President and CEO Mark Parkinson.<br></p><p>“The long term care profession is facing unprecedented challenges on multiple fronts, and it is critical that our board include new voices to help us navigate these difficult times and usher in a stronger, more inclusive future.”<br></p><p>Hartsfield has been in the long term care sector for more than 20 years and is experienced as a licensed nursing home administrator, owner, and operator. His company, Advantage Living Centers, includes 10 skilled nursing facilities and two assisted living communities.<br></p><p>AHCA said Hartsfield is a proponent of high-quality care, enhanced communication, and diverse viewpoints and inclusiveness. Prior to being appointed to the AHCA board, Hartsfield served as board chairman for the Health Care Association of Michigan and on AHCA’s Independent Owner Council and Future Leaders program.<br></p><p>With more than 20 years of operations experience in health care, AHCA said Sandri is committed to improving conditions for frontline caregivers and the public perception of careers in long term care. Sandri has diverse experience, serving as a leader within hospitals, retirement communities, skilled nursing centers, assisted living communities, and hospice care.<br></p><p>Sandri also has extensive experience serving her community in civic, school, and church organizations that focus on developing youth through immersive, hands-on experiential learning and community service.</p>2021-07-01T04:00:00Z<img alt="" src="/Breaking-News/PublishingImages/740%20x%20740/0420_News1.jpg" width="740" style="BORDER&#58;0px solid;" />ManagementPatrick Connole“We are fortunate to have Tina and Reggie joining our board. They are both extraordinary leaders in long term care, and their knowledge and passion will be crucial for our sector during this extremely challenging time.”