If patient populations are any indication, then the future of skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) will include high-tech specialty medical suites, sports bars and much more Zumba.
“There is an increasingly aging demographic we're seeing," says Charlene Peters, Chief Clinical Officer, Greystone Healthcare Management. “Patients are living longer, which means chronic conditions need to be treated longer. They're also coming to us with a more consumer-driven mindset."
Critical to serving the needs of this new resident population will be advancing the skillset of nurses, specifically in areas such as specialty care, dialysis, hospice, pain management and behavioral and psychological care. Peters says it will call for more training and ongoing education, with special attention to assessment, critical thinking and rapid response to patient changes.
At the same time, both nurses and facilities should integrate technological advancements to better keep pace with the industry's best practices. Innovations such as integrated electronic health records, already commonplace in health systems and hospitals, will become increasingly standard in skilled nursing facilities to track patients with complicated medical histories and multiple providers.
“Nurses should be able to have all of the information at their fingertips, and that includes diagnostics such as x-rays and communication with doctors—all of this is critical to rapid response," Peters says.
PDPM is Shaping Services
As the industry, spurred by new regulations such as PDPM, moves toward a model of chronic disease management within a person-centered care framework, providers need to be more adept at balancing complex needs and creating individualized treatment plans.
“Patients in our setting have a multitude of issues, including psychosocial concerns that compound the disease process and our ability to manage symptoms and treatment," Peters says. “We have to be even better at understanding this if we want to prevent readmission, prepare patients for discharge, and help patients return to daily living."
In addition, skilled nursing facilities like those managed by Greystone are increasingly offering offsite monitoring and in-house specialty suites for dialysis, transfusion, and crisis care hospice services.
“We have been opening dialysis and acute respiratory suites where patients can receive care in a home setting," says Gregg Clavijo-Hopper, Senior Vice President, Post-Acute Services at Greystone Healthcare Management. “We are now also offering blood transfusions in our nursing centers, which is something quite new, at least regionally."
More Amenities and Fitness Activities
Just as SNFs become increasingly more sophisticated from a medical standpoint, they're also adopting luxury amenities more often found in resorts and high-end senior communities. Faced with more options than ever before, patients regard SNF selection as another consumer choice, replete with star ratings and reviews, and facilities must oblige with a customer service approach.
“The newer SNFs are moving toward a hospitality model. We're adding service lines like sports bars, bistro areas, Cuban cafes and rooms that look more like hotels than hospitals," says Clavijo-Hopper.
Increasingly, even in the skilled nursing setting, patients of the “Silver Sneaker" generation want wellness features. No longer content to sit around and play bingo as in the nursing homes of yore, they embrace any opportunity to participate in scheduled fitness activities.
“We've introduced yoga, offered to both patients and visitors, as well as tai chi and Zumba," Clavijo-Hopper says. “We are really looking for that balance of healing and wellness because patients want both."
Upgraded Technology is a Must
More tuned-in than ever, today's seniors arrive at SNFs with cellular phones and tablets in hand. Facilities must provide copious amounts of outlets and access to the internet with USB ports built into the walls and furniture—or risk looking hopelessly out of date.
As today's SNFs prepare for tomorrow's senior population, the goal is to anticipate not just the trends but the expectations of patients and prepare to exceed them, Peters says.
“Whether it's health, wellness or lifestyle, we aim to meet patient needs and then create added value."