This article is sponsored by MatrixCare. In this Voices interview, Senior Housing News sits down with MatrixCare CEO Steve Pacicco to learn the biggest shifts he sees senior living taking as a result of the pandemic, what MatrixCare is doing to help operators address occupancy and how his grandfather’s lifelong journey and 50-year career paved the way for Steve’s own work.
Senior Housing News: Steve, give us an overview of your career path to this point. What led you to your position as MatrixCare CEO?
Steve Pacicco: My grandfather immigrated to America, where he was a practicing physician for about 50 years. I grew up with this reverence for the doctor-patient relationship, and I saw how it impacted people. As I began my career and went to business school, I made a conscious decision to work in health care. I spent 12 years at Pfizer in a corporate strategic planning and corporate development role. There I began to see how technology advanced and enriched the doctor-patient relationship, almost turning back the clock, the way it was when my grandfather was practicing. I set out to promote technology into health care.
While I was at Pfizer, I launched an electronic health record company focused on small physician practices. We grew that business and sold it. Then I started another electronic health record company in the long-term care space. We grew that and sold it to MatrixCare a few years ago. MatrixCare got acquired by ResMed and just about a year ago, there was a transition during the integration of MatrixCare into ResMed and they asked me if I would be interested in leading MatrixCare.
I took on this role in October of 2019. I love this industry and I love working with a team to help senior housing providers deliver a great resident experience and do it profitably. That’s my background.
That’s a great answer. Just curious, your grandfather immigrated to America. Immigrated from where?
Pacicco: From Italy. He grew up in a small Italian hill town, and was fortunate enough to be able to go to medical school. This was in 1918 and 1919. When he finished medical school, he said, “I want to go to America,” and pursue the American dream. He got on a boat, came here, didn’t know what was on the other side, and served as a physician for 50 years.
That’s great. Thank you for sharing. What do you see as the biggest shifts the senior housing industry is taking as a result of the pandemic?
Pacicco: This was underway prior to the pandemic, but I think will accelerate significantly post-pandemic, which is the awareness of the deficiencies in our health care system. Those deficiencies were really centered around the idea that the hospital was the hub for care, and often was the initiator for care. What’s changing as a result of the pandemic is this focus on aging in place or keeping people in their current care setting. I think the incentives are aligned around that and I think the trends behind that will accelerate as a result.
Previously, interaction with the health care system was reactive. Somebody would have a fall or their health status would deteriorate and then the health care system jumps to action. We treat them in a hospital. We transition them into post-acute and then back to where they’re living and hope they recover to their prior health status. I think that’s going to change.
Payers — increasingly Medicare Advantage and Medicaid — as well as people want that to change. I think, frankly, senior housing providers would like to see that change. There will be this focus on prevention — preventing a trip to the hospital, preventing a decline in health status.
That, to me, is the biggest shift as a result of the pandemic.
With that in mind, how has the need for technology evolved since the start of the pandemic?
Pacicco: It’s hard to overstate how dramatic the pandemic hit senior housing providers. I’ve been in this business for 30 years and I’ve never seen anything like this. I talk to people with the same experience, and COVID-19 was like nothing they had ever seen. March, April and May of 2020 were just so dramatically difficult, and technology needed to respond to that. We needed to help them identify and assess the risk of COVID, treat the disease and help them promote infection control. Now it’s evolving into administering and tracking the delivery and the efficacy of the vaccination. That’s been job one of technology.
Beyond this, technology adoption in senior care has been historically lower than other industries. If you look at it as a percent of revenue — what senior housing providers spend on technology versus almost any other industry — it’s certainly below the averages. We think this will change over the next few years. Again, this is accelerated as a result of COVID-19, but it was always here.
Today’s challenges can only be solved through technology. We believe strongly that senior housing providers will begin to spend more on technology — on things like addressing the staffing challenge or disconnecting the collection of health information and clinical information from an encounter with a doctor or a nurse or an aide. Think about it: Today, most health information is really only collected when that person is in front of a clinician. I think technology now enables that to be disconnected. We are going to begin to collect information and provide it to a senior housing provider for clinicians to make their efforts more targeted and more effective.
There’s been rapid innovation and implementation of new models of care and resident and family engagement. We’ll see that as a need to mitigate social isolation and family concerns that are heightened as a result of the pandemic. Then within all this will be more sophisticated data analytics to assist organizations in better understanding the health of their business and the health of their residents. I think all of this will dramatically transition and change the senior care industry, and these trends have only been accelerated by the pandemic.
What do you see as the senior housing industry’s greatest challenge going into 2021?
Pacicco: I believe they will get control of COVID-19, and that’s not to minimize it, but I think we’ve all learned a lot and they will get control of it. People will get vaccinated. I think the primary challenge is to build back occupancy. I’ve read that senior housing occupancy is at its lowest level ever. That is the primary challenge.
What is the top way that MatrixCare is helping operators and care organizations address occupancy?
Pacicco: We’re the only EHR provider to focus on the entire care continuum. We are dedicated to helping these organizations maintain high occupancy and improve the efficiency so they can do it more profitably, and provide an exceptional resident experience. It’s the comprehensiveness of the solutions that we deliver, such as advanced marketing and outreach. We enable providers to proactively manage health and wellness, better triage and manage care, control costs and improve reimbursement — all while enabling people to age in place and receive great care in the setting of their choices. Our solutions point to each one of those pain points and opportunities to do that. We think the breadth of our solutions is unique in the industry.
You mentioned it earlier, MatrixCare acquired by ResMed. Tell us how MatrixCare and ResMed are working together in the post-acute care market.
Pacicco: ResMed is the largest connected health company in the world. They have engaged residents literally all over the world to improve their health through connected medical devices and embedded informatics — bringing together people, physicians and medical device businesses like home medical equipment. As a subsidiary of ResMed, we have access to all of that, and to all of our parent’s digital health data capabilities and expertise in connected health.
That helps drive our latest product developments and innovation. Beyond that, I think we now have the industry’s best information security capabilities. I was struck as I’ve spoken over the past year or so to some of our customers, how under attack they feel from an information security standpoint, how vulnerable they are. That’s a new development that they weren’t experiencing a couple of years ago.
Together, I think we’re going to be able to continue to improve care coordination. Incorporating integration with home medical equipment agencies, medical device integration, integrated chronic care management — these are all opportunities that are on our roadmap and will help senior housing providers improve their brand and make them more attractive to people and families as a place to put their loved ones.
When it comes to care transitions and the out-of-hospital trends, what is MatrixCare doing to improve outcomes there?
Pacicco: When a person has a significant change in health status or an acute event, they end up in the hospital and need to eventually transition out of the hospital, get rehabilitative care and transition back into their home. There are things like advanced interoperability to move information as the person moves through the health care system.
I think there’s streamlining and informing again, embedding analytics into the intake and discharge process. We understand that there’s a time dimension and an information constraint when someone is coming out of the acute setting and going back into senior care or post-acute care. A senior housing provider has a very short amount of time, as there’s constraint on the information to assess whether this is a referral that they may want.
We are working to alleviate both the time constraint and the information constraint, and that includes care transitions within a senior living facility. I’ve spoken to senior housing providers who have said to me that every day, there are agencies coming into their communities: home health, home care aids or hospice agencies. These represent care transitions where coordination is needed. Given our breadth of solutions, MatrixCare is uniquely positioned to help senior housing providers create an informal network that allows them to deliver a better resident experience, better care and keep residents in the environment longer.
The new year is bringing a lot of hope for an industry that changed during the pandemic. What makes you hopeful about senior care in 2021?
Pacicco: Senior housing providers are a mission-driven, resilient, smart sector of not only the health care industry, but I think the U.S. economy. I think there’s macroeconomic tailwinds that point to senior living. People want to age in place more, but you can’t get away from the need for higher levels of care as the population ages.
We actually believe over the next five to 10 years, senior housing will be the highest growth segment of the senior care market and one of the highest growing markets in health care. While there are significant challenges — getting rid of COVID, building back the brand, building back occupancy, creating a great resident experience, doing this all profitably — again, they’re smart, resilient people. They’ve demonstrated this before. I think technology has matured to the point that it’s now ready to enable them to mitigate those challenges and take advantage of the opportunity that those macroeconomic tailwinds present.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
MatrixCare is the only EHR provider in the industry to focus on the entire senior care continuum, dedicated to helping providers improve operational efficiencies and provide exceptional care. To learn more about how MatrixCare can help your organization implement its continuous improvement goals, visit MatrixCare.com.
The Voices Series is a sponsored content program featuring leading executives discussing trends, topics and more — shaping their industry in a question-and-answer format. For more information on Voices, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.