A company without a strategic plan is like a traveler without a map. You can’t get where you’re going unless you know how to get there.  

That explains why a growing number of senior living providers embrace the possibilities of healthcare partnerships in their future strategic plans. They recognize the need to keep residents healthy and to provide care whenand where, it’s needed. 

Connecting with a healthcare organization is a growing trend,” said Dan Cinelli, senior principal strategist at architecture/consulting firm Perkins Eastman.  “Senior living providers want to know how to make it come about.” 

As the lead strategist of the Perkins Eastman senior living practice, Cinelli has collaborated with more than 200 senior living organizations, sponsors and associations. He currently advises nonprofit providers on strategic and master planning for new and repositioned properties.  

A 2017 Perkins Eastman study on the state of senior living surveyed 175 C-suite executives at nonprofit organizations and showed that healthcare providers ranked high among potential partners.  

Despite a very highly ranked industry interest, Cinelli noted that a common obstacle is that most healthcare organizations are strapped for time and resources and typically don’t highly rank partnerships with senior focused organizations 

But senior living providers are moving forward and finding creative ways to partner with healthcare organizations, Cinelli said. A growing number of properties include clinic spaces, therapy gyms and wellness centers.   

Cinelli cited a few examples of successful partnerships from his recent work: 

  • Moorings Park, Naples, Florida. After unsuccessful attempts to have the local hospital open an onsite clinic, the community hired three geriatricians and built a Center for Healthy Living. The 37,000-square-foot CHL center is open to its residents at no charge. More than 100 elders from the wider community pay a membership fee for the services, which include primary medical care, fitness and brain centers, a salon and access to rehab programsThe life plan community also maintains a relationship with many local hospitals. 
  • Jewish Home at RockleighRockleigh, New Jersey. The community is adding a 60-bed short-term rehab facility that includes space for occupational and physical therapy, ambulance bays and multiple pools for an aquatics program. “The only thing missing to make this boutique hospital clinic is the diagnostics and testing equipment,” said Cinelli. So space has been reserved adjacent to the new addition for a 3,000-square-foot diagnostics center to be built in the next five years with exam rooms, and a digital imaging department. Cinelli thinks the diagnostics facility could be a precursor to elder care hospitals that specialize in services for older adults, something like children’s hospitals that address age-specific needs. 
  • Abramson Center for Jewish LifeNorth Wales, Pennsylvania. This well respected continuing care community wanted to make inroads in the hospital partnership world. Abramson leveraged this idea and struck a deal with nearby Lankenau Hospital and signed a longterm lease for two floors in a medical office building connected to the hospital. The new short term rehab units and community spaces have a hospitality vibe, leveraging Abramson’s admired local brand. “The hospital will be great elder care partner for Abramson,” said Cinelli. 

Though Cinelli works mostly with the nonprofit sponsors of life plan communities, the overarching trend of healthcare partnerships and alliances can apply to the private pay seniors housing sector as wellTheir assisted and independent living communities, which like to highlight their hospitality-style amenities, can adopt strategies to position themselves in the healthcare marketplace with fitness and wellness services They don’t necessarily have to be provided by an in-house department either, Cinelli said. Look for partners with a similar mission, such as the local YMCA or a physician practice clinic 

As someone who manages the strategic planning process, Cinelli has another suggestion: Reach out for ideas to the wider community beyond the senior living industry. Think about adding advisors or board members from the local college, or hospital. New perspectives can help generate creative ideas. “Get disruptive,” said Cinelli.  

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April 2, 2019 

janekadler@gmail.com