Senior living providers are expanding their connections to health and home care services. Take, for example, Bickford Senior Living. Based in Olathe, Kansas, the senior living company operates 65 properties in 11 states, offering mostly assisted living and memory care services.

Like many senior living companies, Bickford typically works with multiple providers of home health, home care and hospice services. Preferred providers are selected by the executive director and nursing coordinator. “Our feeling is that home healthcare and hospice is a local business relationship,” said Alan Fairbanks, executive vice president of operations at Bickford.

Bickford is also testing new arrangements.

The company is piloting a program at its communities in Virginia to consolidate rehabilitation services with one provider.  The goal is to roll out rehab support services from the provider to the Bickford projects across the country. Individual buildings would maintain their relationships with local rehab providers. The national rehab provider would act in a support role to establish baseline risk assessments for new residents and a wellness program to prevent falls.

More health services are being integrated.

Last July, Bickford closed on the purchase of ValuMed Pharmacy, Sioux City, Iowa.  The company provides medications to residents at all Bickford buildings.

“It enhances our ability to provide consistent quality care for our residents,” said Fairbanks. He explained that the companies now share technology platforms to provide medications in a timely, efficient and effective manner.

The medication process has been streamlined to anticipate the needs of new residents, provide notifications of changes in medication, and update the status and level of care of residents.  “It has really helped to create economies of scale,” said Fairbanks.  “It’s a win for us and our residents.”

Strong alliances with third party service providers potentially represent a big opportunity for senior living companies. According to IBISWorld Industry Research, the home care/personal care and home healthcare industries are valued at about $93.4 billion, and growing.

Another plus is that residents who receive on-site services such as rehab, home health, and hospice are likely to increase their length of stay. “We try to provide the additional care that is needed,” said Fairbanks.

Coordinating third party service providers can be a challenge for operators. Some operators give or rent office space to home health and therapy services. Many operators do not house third-party providers on-site.

Bickford requires third-party providers to sign an external provider agreement which details expectations. Building management must be kept aware of when the provider is in the building. They are also expected to keep building management up-to-date on resident care plans.

The relationships require transparent communications from both parties, said Fairbanks, who advised, “Be open.”

As the acuity of residents continues to rise, information sharing between operators and service providers will become more common and more streamlined, Fairbanks predicted. “Support services are needed now more than ever.”