Is traveling to a doctor’s appointment a thing of the past? One senior housing operator seems to think so.
Through an innovative partnership, the company has primary care providers – specifically trained to care for senior living residents – keeping regular office hours at its communities’ on-site clinics, cutting transportation arrangements and other hassles out of the picture entirely.
Bloomfield, New Jersey-based Juniper Communities operates 18 long-term care communities in New Jersey, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Florida. The provider recently partnered with Redwood Health Partners, an on-site primary care provider that solely operates within assisted and senior living residences, skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers, and special-purpose memory care communities. Juniper previously piloted its first on-site Redwood Health Partners clinic at Juniper Village-The Spearly Center in Denver in December 2013.
The partnership between Juniper and Redwood was forged in part because Juniper recognized the permanence of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Juniper CEO Lynne Katzmann told Senior Housing News.
“We’re one of the few providers that’s really said, okay, the ACA is here to stay,” Katzmann said. When the ACA began, Juniper started to look seriously at care transitions and realized that the primary care doctor “is really critical” for preventing readmissions to hospitals.
“Having primary care on-site made sense,” Katzmann said.
Redwood Health Partners, like Juniper, is based in Bloomfield, and was willing to be part of Juniper’s communication protocols—that is, it was willing to use Juniper’s existing electronic health record.
This agreement enables Redwood physicians to provide cohesive, quality care, because they can both enter their own notes into residents’ EHRs and see notes from staff and additional ancillary providers, Katzmann told SHN. Redwood practitioners will also take part in Juniper’s care planning process.
To Katzmann’s knowledge, no other senior housing providers in Juniper’s markets are offering similar health care services.
“We’ve become known as an innovator,” Katzmann said.
Boosting Life Expectancy, Boosting Profit
Standing out from the competition has benefitted Juniper Communities’ bottom line, plain and simple.
Offering primary care on-site in a residential care setting has been proven to reduce hospital readmissions, as well as extend life expectancy, Katzmann told SHN. Longer life expectancy translates into longer length of stay—which, in turn, translates into more profit.
“The integrated model really works,” Katzmann explained. Juniper’s readmission rate in the second quarter of 2015 across 18 buildings was only 2%.
Partnering with Redwood is part of Juniper’s larger Connect 4 Life strategy, which is intended to make Juniper a preferred provider with accountable care organizations and hospital discharge planners, Katzmann said. The low readmission rate makes Juniper especially attractive, given that under ACA policies, hospitals face Medicare penalties if too many patients return soon after discharge.
“A referral source sees us as a place to send people,” she added.
Plus, the return on investment potential involved in such partnerships is enormous, especially when the services are Medicare-billed, like they are at Juniper.
“It’s effectively no cost to the facility, and more convenient for the facility and for the residents,” Katzmann told SHN. “It’s simple, it’s easy, and it doesn’t cost a provider anything.”
Not Done Yet
Looking ahead, Juniper has big plans for its Redwood partnership.
At present, Redwood Health Partners provides services in five Juniper Village communities: two in New Jersey and three in Colorado. This month, two communities in Pennsylvania are scheduled to begin participating in the Redwood partnership, according to a company blog post.
All Juniper communities are anticipated to have Redwood clinics by early 2016, Cindy Longfellow, national director of sales and marketing for Juniper Communities, said in the same post.
Although residents are legally free to choose their own doctor, right now, in some communities, 96% of residents use Redwood primary care physicians. The goal, Katzmann told SHN, is to eventually have this number reach 80% across all Juniper communities.
The families of Juniper residents, as well as Juniper employees, are also free to join Redwood as “members” and use Redwood for their primary care needs, further extending the benefits of a program that already seems to be paying off in myriad ways.
Written by Mary Kate Nelson