NIC: Collaboration is the Future of Seniors Housing

From left, Craig Patnode, president and CEO of Eldermark; Brian Jurutka, president and CEO of the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC); Mary Ann Donaghy, NIC’s chief marketing and communications officer; and Steven Littlehale, executive vice president and chief clinical officer of PointRight.

The future of seniors housing is dependent on collaboration and cooperation between all the stakeholders in the industry, particularly operators and “senior care enablers,” according to Brian Jurutka, president and CEO of the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC).

The comments came during a question-and-answer session moderated by Mary Ann Donaghy, NIC’s chief marketing and communications officer, at the organization’s Spring Investment Forum, held March 7 to 9 in Dallas. NIC is a Maryland-based nonprofit association that provides data metrics on the seniors housing industry.

Examples of senior care enablers include healthcare systems, home health providers, software companies and others who provide care outside of the standard offerings of a seniors housing community.

“Historically we have been more focused on the real estate piece,” says Jurutka. “However, one of the components we think is important is that instead of seniors going to healthcare, healthcare will come to seniors. What that means is there are opportunities for value to be created for seniors housing communities.”

Examples of such collaborations in action could include:

  • Bringing home health aides into independent living communities to slow the transition to assisted living.
  • Bringing rehabilitation and therapy providers into assisted living communities to slow the transition to skilled nursing.
  • Partnering with accountable care organizations (ACOs) and healthcare systems on the skilled nursing level to improve quality of care and lower hospitalization rates.

Jurutka also notes that attendance at the conference was including more and more senior care enablers, such as insurance providers and physician groups.

A New Data Wave

As part of this spirit of collaboration, Jurutka announced that NIC was partnering with two software companies to improve upon and expand its data sets. The companies are Eldermark, a seniors housing software platform that will help establish actual rent metrics, and PointRight, a healthcare software platform that will help establish quality-of-care metrics.

“In order for seniors housing and care to attract the appropriate amount of capital [investment], we want to make sure there are metrics that are comparable to other real estate classes,” says Jurutka.

The organization is expanding its offerings by combining data directly from operators, data from partners such as Eldermark and PointRight, and publicly available data that’s too cumbersome for individual operators to compile on their own.

“An example would be Bureau of Labor Statistics data, where we have taken what’s a fairly complex data set and distilled that down into information that is relevant for investors in seniors housing and care,” says Jurutka.

Currently NIC provides statistics for both asking rents (the posted price of a seniors housing unit) and actual rents (what residents actually pay after discounts to fill empty rooms). However the data comes from only a few sources, and is hard to compile into a single format from those multiple sources.

This is where Eldermark comes in. The company currently serves approximately 400 companies with 2,500 seniors housing communities. The actual rents report is built into the software, pre-designed in a format that NIC can use. Should a customer choose to participate, their data is anonymously submitted to NIC to greatly improve the size and quality of the data sets.

“We were holding the data but we weren’t sharing,” says Craig Patnode, president and CEO of Eldermark. “This is anonymous data that we can use to help investors and operators navigate through the risks and benefits of seniors housing. It can go to NIC and help the mission.”

PointRight, for its part, tracks a variety of hospital and skilled nursing data for its clients. Jurutka specifically called out the company’s ability to track re-hospitalization rates, which is a crucial data point for skilled nursing facilities to keep quality-of-care metrics high and maintain relationships with area health systems.

“In addition to the metrics themselves, we’ll provide competitive benchmarks,” says Steven Littlehale, executive vice president and chief clinical officer of PointRight. “We’ll put those outcomes into context about what’s going on in the environment where the community is located, as all healthcare is local.”

“We’ll also provide the CMS five-star information to the NIC database,” adds Littlehale. “They’ll have the ability to track and trend these metrics over time. It plays beautifully into NIC’s goal of transparency in the industry.”

Other data PointRight plans to eventually provide to NIC include a variety of quality-of-care metrics, such as cognition, depression, continence, activities of daily living assistance and pain. “Those are the important, make-or-break metrics that need to be monitored on the resident level,” says Littlehale.

One of NIC’s long-term goals is to have all this data extremely localized so that trends can be seen geographically in addition to the nationwide view, says Jurutka.

“In order to scale we need more data. One of the key ways to get that data is to partner with software providers,” says Jurutka. “It’s building a digital bridge that allows the efficient, accurate transfer of information on a regular basis.”

— Jeff Shaw

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