As the medical needs of residents grow increasingly complex, seniors housing owners and operators are forging more partnerships with healthcare providers and networks.

The collaborative approach already shows promise to reduce resident hospitalizations, increase assisted living length of stay, improve resident satisfaction and provide support to overstretched staff.

For example, the big real estate investment trust Welltower (NYSE: WELL) has taken several steps to partner with healthcare organizations as part of its seniors housing strategy.

In 2019, the company partnered with the nonprofit health system ProMedica to acquire the HCR ManorCare portfolio of skilled nursing and senior living communities. ProMedica offers a Medicare Advantage insurance plan for residents, allowing the provider to more closely manage and coordinate their care.

Last September, Welltower formed a partnership with insurer Anthem and its affiliate CareMore Health. Residents who enroll in the Medicare Advantage insurance plan have access to teams of medical professionals who provide care on site at Welltower-owned buildings.

Also, Welltower recently announced its intention to form a partnership with Philadelphia-based Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health. Expected to be finalized in the next 90 days, the agreement will create a joint venture in which Welltower would acquire a stake in certain Jefferson real estate assets.

Additionally, Jefferson’s clinicians would provide care at Welltower senior housing, assisted living and memory care communities throughout the region as well as future ones the organizations could build together.

“These partnerships with CareMore, ManorCare and the impending partnership with Jefferson Health are about making our real estate more consequential to where and how healthcare is delivered, and working in partnership with best-in-class payors, providers and innovators to achieve strong health outcomes and reduce the overall cost of care,” said Mark Shaver, senior vice president, business strategy and health systems initiatives, Welltower.

Partnership Provides Easy Access to Medical Services

The CareMore partnership is already producing results.

CareMore’s senior living solution—called “Touch”—has been rolled out to a handful of Welltower communities operated by Belmont Village Senior Living and SRG Senior Living. Most of the communities are in California.

In 2020, Welltower plans to expand the CareMore program to five more states with five additional operators. CareMore is based in Cerritos, California, and has operations in nine states and the District of Columbia.

SRG Senior Living introduced the Touch program last August at six of its buildings. The company plans to offer the program at another six buildings early this year.

“We are extremely happy with the program,” said Isaac Hagerman, vice president of health and quality at SRG, Solana Beach, California. “The program is a more cost-effective insurance solution for residents.”

Residents who are enrolled in the program have easy access to medical services. “There’s no more waiting,” said Hagerman. CareMore’s nurse practitioner sees residents on site. Mobile lab tests and x-ray units are brought into the community. Hagerman said the CareMore model is a good solution for assisted living because it cuts the red tape and provides immediate care for residents.

Belmont Village has offered the CareMore program at two of its communities for about 18 months. The program is being expanded to two Belmont properties in Houston, and three in the Los Angeles area.

“We’ve learned a lot,” said Sheri Easton-Garret, senior vice president of clinical services at Belmont Village. She emphasized the collaborative nature of the program which involves building staff and CareMore practitioners.

CareMore currently provides healthcare services through its Touch program for 7,000 senior living residents in California, Arizona and Nevada. Most are insured through an Anthem Medicare Advantage plan. CareMore expects to expand this year to 17 markets in seven states.

In addition to general medical care, CareMore offers services such as behavioral health, podiatry, dental and social work services as well as a pharmacy team to review medications, dependent on the location. The CareMore team can also directly admit a resident to a skilled nursing facility in its network.

The CareMore program works best when at least 30% of residents sign up for the Medicare Advantage plan, according to Jim Lydiard, general manager of CareMore’s Touch program. “That’s when we become a difference maker,” he said.

For a more detailed discussion on the CareMore’s Touch program, see the February NIC Insider newsletter. CareMore’s Lydiard will be featured on two panel discussions at the upcoming 2020 NIC Spring Conference, March 4-6 in San Diego: “What’s the Physician’s Role in the Value Equation?” and “Planning for the Care Needs of the Forgotten Middle.” For details and to register for the conference, visit nicevent.org.