State of Senior Housing

By on Oct 23, 2020 in People

Senior Housing News recently interviewed Fil Southerland, director of healthcare solutions for Yardi, about the biggest changes in senior living technology during the COVID-19 pandemic, how technology is meeting new healthcare demands and his experience growing up in Idaho, where his father operated assisted living facilities and built his own technology platform to support them. Excerpts follow.

Q.: One of the early outcomes of the pandemic was the increase in technology adoption. What are the main silver linings in terms of senior living technology?

A.: COVID-19 has definitely been hard on our industry and the residents we’re caring for. I think what it’s really


highlighted is the incredible resilience of the organizations and their staff members that we work with. I’ve been particularly impressed with the amount of rapid innovation and technology uptake within the industry.

Yardi’s contribution is a broad-based platform that helps providers efficiently manage everything from the care-related side to operations to finances. We’ve continued to add new clients at a rapid pace and we’re also seeing our existing clients working to automate and streamline a lot of their workflows.

I think that kind of technology adoption is a necessity now. Over the long term, we’re hopeful that it will produce a lot of good dividends for the industry in terms of care coordination and personalization, wellness, operational efficiency and risk mitigation.

Q.: Which changes in senior living technology prompted by the pandemic do you think will last?

A.: One area is marketing and admissions. Previously, residents or family members had to come into communities to sign leases or changes to service plans. Yardi has a solution that allows all that to be done online. We’ve seen a lot of interest in that.

Also, families considering a community are really concerned about amenities, how wellness programs are working for residents, the quality of care provided and how they can participate in that care. Families are working hard to stay engaged and work with the community staff to remain connected.

And finally, on the care side, I have seen a lot of innovation with interoperability. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Centers for Disease Control have reporting requirements that we’re helping to facilitate. We’ve brought the exchange of health records online via the Carequality network. As residents transition through care, Yardi can work effectively with third parties to exchange health records with an increased emphasis on coordinating between the different care settings.

Q.: What have you heard from operators since March about their increased health care technology needs?

A: We’ve seen more sophistication about technology in organizations that emphasize the health care side as well as those that place a premium on hospitality. We’re also seeing increased coordination among hospital systems, skilled nursing communities and, to some extent, assisted living. COVID-19 prompted an acceleration for Yardi with the technology uptake.

A key trend our clients are reporting is a lot more coordination between health care entities, as well as regulatory entities, at the local, state and national levels. Having a way to facilitate that across those spectrums is important, as is being able to prove to families that this is a safe and welcoming environment that respects resident preferences in their care decisions.

Q.: What is your major takeaway on how operators have responded to the challenge?

A.: It’s really been very inspiring. To see them continue to adapt to new regulations and reporting requirements, and innovate through that, has really been heartening.

Q.: Tell us about your father and how he came to develop the healthcare platform ALMSA.

A: My dad has always been an inspiration. He was a pioneer in the assisted living industry. He started a management group in Idaho when I was about eight years old, so I’ve been in the industry for a long time. He had seven communities and my brother J.R. and I were involved from a very young age on the operational level, working with staff, talking to residents, doing maintenance— pretty much everything.

Around 1996, Dad made the decision to start a software company, ALMSA, to manage assisted living. We used it internally for about four years. Over time, to fund the growth of the business, he sold off the communities one by one. We expanded in Idaho, then nationally, and became one of the first internet based EMR systems focused on long-term care. Over time, the platform became much more sophisticated and utilized by national providers. In 2012, we were acquired by Yardi.

Q.: How does that experience motivate you today?

A.: What has always stayed with me is the human factor. We’ve really tried to empathize with the experience of both residents and staff members. One example in Yardi EHR is the resident storyboard, where we surface a resident’s social background alongside their care needs, so caregivers can quickly get to know those they’re caring for.

Q.: The emotional component of what senior housing operators have to do has never been more important. What is the top way that technology can support the emotional needs of residents, staff and families?

A.: We’re an industry where the care and operational decisions of our clients really matter in the quality of residents’ day-to-day life, so Yardi’s goal from a technology standpoint is just to listen and recognize the needs of our users. We do a lot of development based on user feedback. That’s really where we’re focused, and our goal is to give users the information they need to make the best decisions.

At the end of the day, what we want to do with technology is provide information to the frontline staff, operators, corporations or organizations so that everyone can make the right human-level decisions and operate efficiently in a way that provides the best care possible.

Q.: What are the biggest lessons that Yardi has learned that you think will influence the way the company operates in 2021 and beyond?

Early on during the pandemic, we knew it was important to us to maintain the human connection, even though it couldn’t be in person. We reached out to our clients just to see how everybody was doing. It wasn’t to make a sale. We wanted to hear everybody’s needs and be there through this.

In a way, it’s a privilege to be here at this moment in time and being able to provide a technology platform that helps other teams face this challenge that’s out there and, I hope, come out better on the other side.

Learn more about how Yardi helps senior living operators manage their business from a single connected solution. Read Fil Southerland’s Senior Housing News interview in its entirety.