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Why it's important to pick healthcare partners carefully

Posted Nov 06 2013 4:02pm

by Anthony Cirillo

Working on both sides of the aisle so to speak, I get to see the best and the worst of both the hospital world and the long-term care world. And recently long-term care has gotten beaten up, more so than usual. Hospital folks you need to take note because increasingly you are looking for partners in skilled nursing, rehabilitation and assisted living who can provide high-quality care while reducing readmissions.

When doing your homework, you may want to get a primer on what has been happening lately. First there was a scathing Frontline report on life and death in assisted living. And the largest assisted living chain was severely thrown under the bus.

That is important to note for a few reasons. As the largest chain, there was an expectation of quality and a perception of quality. Those positive perceptions would typically make it easier for hospital administrators to choose partners. Yet with one airing of a television program, those perceptions and warm and fuzzy feelings went bye-bye.

A couple of other stories hammered nursing homes. Stealing from residents trusts funds-- check . Abandoning residents entirely-- check .

When I advocated we expand the role of the chief experience officer across the continuum , these stories are some of the reasons why. You want to pick partners who have your values, who have exceptional quality and who provide an experience that matches what you provide.

That means, just like families of long-term care residents, you have to peel back the wallpaper, ignore the bright and shiny objects (and chandeliers) and vet your partner thoroughly.

Consider dementia and Alzheimer's. So much of the national and international conversation about dementia and Alzheimer's has been about the cure. And that squeaky wheel has disproportionately gotten its share of the grease (as in attention and funding).

But we also have to pay attention to the care of the person with the affliction and their family caregivers. It is not only about the cure but the care. When you start to shift to population health and community wellness, the aging crisis will be the first thing that hits you in the face.

That's why you may want to turn to the Dementia Action Alliance for inspiration, as it involves the partnership of three organizations with person-centered care at the core of their missions: CCAL - Advancing Person-Centered Living (of which I am on the board), Eden Alternative and Planetree .

The alliance will coalesce and connect the voices of people living with dementia, their care partners and other advocates to inform key policy, research and service providers about the importance and benefits of making person-centered care the standard for dementia care in our country.

The United States is facing unprecedented growth in the number of people living with dementia--currently estimated at 5.4 million Americans and growing at an alarming rate as the baby boom generation ages. A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine found dementia costs now exceed those for cancer and heart disease. Despite the high expenditures, the quality of dementia care in general across the country is subpar.

So the three groups joined forces to engage in grass root efforts to learn what is most needed and important for dementia care practices, public policies and research agendas--an approach hospitals should use for strengthening bonds with long-term care providers

Anthony Cirillo, FACHE, ABC, is president of Fast Forward Consulting , which specializes in experience management and strategic marketing for healthcare facilities. He also is the expert guide in Assisted Living for About.com .

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