Like some other senior living leaders, Asbury Communities CEO Doug Leidig believes that the industry is changing quickly and new ways of doing business are needed.
Leidig is looking ahead to the baby boomer generation, and he sees a huge but fragmented consumer group that will not be satisfied with senior living as it exists today, he said during a recent interview for Senior Housing News’ Transform podcast.
To serve the boomers, Asbury is repositioning its campuses and investing heavily in technology — including by creating a platform for continuing care retirement community (CCRC) management that utilizes financial metrics to drive operations.
Leidig has also led a refresh of Asbury’s culture to drive innovative thinking and action. One key tenet: making data-driven decisions in a low-anxiety environment.
Frederick, Maryland-based Asbury operates a portfolio of seven CCRCs, making it one of the largest non-profit providers in the United States. It also has an affiliated tech company, The Asbury Group.
On changes at Asbury since he became CEO five years ago:
We’ve implemented a new way of doing business that helps drive culture change and innovation, called LEAD, and we’re putting a lot more, stronger systems in for a data-driven type of culture. Then, finally, I think the one that has helped us most significantly is the diversifying of our leadership … from a personal and professional perspective.
On the LEAD approach:
It stands for listening to those closest to the process; engaging those in a fun, non-anxious way; A is the ask why, why not, what if, which is what drives innovation, and doing business in a different way; and the D is data.
I think there’s so much we can do around data in our organization to help those running our communities make more informed, better decisions, giving them another tool in their toolbox to help them in their every day.
On keeping anxiety low in the workforce:
All of us understand, and we know, that the best decisions are made when everyone is calm. You’ve got all the data in front of you, and you can have the open discussions to come to the [right] conclusion. The worst decisions are made when you react, when you’re running high in anxiety. You can create that culture — and we do that, a lot of that, through resilient leadership — it’s a training and it’s an education of being a step-down transformer, where you can just sort of lower the temperature, lower the anxiety and look at the facts, and then make a rational decision.
On the need for change and the future consumer:
Our industry is definitely changing, and I believe that more and more of these types of conversations have to happen within the industry about the way we do business.
The consumer of the future … They’re going to be so diversified, and that’s everything from financially to their health, to their wants and their desires. It’s going to be a challenge for us, but I also think that the consumer of the future is not really going to be with us for at least another nine to 10 years, because the boomers, the younger boomers, don’t want the lifestyle that we offer just yet, and you hear a lot that they want to age in place, meaning their own home.
I think that the big shift we’re going to see in our industry is that that’s going to change, from wanting to age in place to actually wanting to move to our communities. The reason I say that is that I look at the younger boomers, and they’re taking care of their mom or their dad who have not moved, and are living at their own home, and they see the challenges with that. They see the depression, they see the isolation, they see the demands on the family members to make sure that they’re taken care of. I believe that the younger boomer is not going to want that for themselves, nor their families.
The challenge we are going to have is how do we reposition our campuses over these next six, nine, 10 years, to create a lifestyle that that younger boomer is going to want.
On how Asbury is repositioning for the future:
We go under a continuous master repositioning process at all our campuses to make sure that we’re looking out not only 10 and 15 years, but even five or 10, so we constantly have the refreshing of our campuses … I think everybody has different dining venues. Everybody has fitness centers. But what are the living arrangements in terms of what’s that product, is it smaller, is it larger, et-cetera?
I think also that there’s an opportunity for us that we’re looking at in niche-type communities. You’re hearing a little bit about that in the industry, but how do we start offering some of that on our campuses, such as marketing to a specific diverse culture, such as maybe somebody is looking for an Asian community, or some natural affinity group.
On the evolution of Asbury’s tech company:
What has me most excited is that we’ve repositioned our technology company from just offering electronic medical records support implementation to creating what I think of in three buckets. The first is a best of class IT company that can run a CCRC, because there’s so much interoperability that’s needed. I think if we can nail down that opportunity, that provides a great asset to not only those who live with us, but those who work with us. The second bucket is the data. Now that we have all this data, now that we’ve created this foundation where we can access our data, how do we get that into the user’s hands? Then the third part, and this is where the fun, exciting part happens, is that I want us to become an incubator for new product development in technology.
Now, that doesn’t mean that we’re developing it … What we’re doing is we’re becoming that incubator. Currently, we’re doing two different pilot programs. One is around enhanced mobility at one of our campuses, where we’re engaging multiple types of technology to try to get to the point where we can be predictive on falls. This is not only those who live in our nursing home or assisted living, but independent living as well.
Then the second pilot we’re working on is remote monitoring. For instance, we know that with your dementia resident, you can agitate them very quickly by putting a blood pressure cuff on their arm. Well, there’s technology out there that can do remote monitoring, so how can we do that in our skilled nursing dementia units and remote monitor people’s vitals so we don’t agitate them, which is a quality of life [issue] for them?
The second part is, then how do you leverage that and become predictive? If we can create the baseline of heart rate and pulse, and compare that to national data, how can we start predicting heart attacks that — maybe we can’t stop the heart attack, but what we can do is have a nurse there as your vitals, and your heart rate, your blood pressure get to that warning sign. We can have a nurse there sit you down in the chair. If you are having a heart attack, you don’t fall and have a secondary incident like hit your head.
On offering a tech platform to run a CCRC:
Doctors offices, physicians, insurance companies … right now we have so many different systems. If you’re HR, or you’re maintenance, or you’re housekeeping, laundry, I mean you just look at the diverse amount of different departments we have, the ability to have all that data in centralized and accessible [places] is a key component for us to being able to do our job better, to run our business differently — creating those dashboards, the financial forecasting, to become smarter, because traditionally what we do is, we rely on lagging indicators. You get your financials from the previous month, the 10th of the month.
Now what we’re doing is, our new CFO created a forecasting model where you take all the data we have in that business unit leader, and they can input it, and they can forecast where they are actually today, what they’re predicting over the next quarter until the end of the year. Then we can start making smart business decisions, so we’re not having to scramble in the third quarter or fourth quarter to make up with some lagging information.
On offering that forecasting model to other senior living providers:
It’s been rolled out about three months now, so I think [give] us the rest of this year, [then] that can be a product that we would offer through our IT company to other senior living organizations.
On how Asbury views the competitive landscape:
I don’t know if there really is a competition anymore. I think the word I’ve heard used before is co-opetition. There’s always somebody doing something, a part of your business, better than what you’re doing. My stance is, why do we have to recreate that? Let’s learn off somebody and see if we can partner for the benefit of both. I think in the past traditionally affiliations were looked at [as] one wins and one loses. I think there’s opportunities now to talk about the ways we can come together and create a strategic partnership to serve both organizations. IT, I think, is a great foundational topic to start that discussion around.
Click below to hear the complete podcast episode, including information about Asbury’s Medicare Advantage plans and interest in adding new business lines:
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