Grab your Sharpie — LTC's yearbook is here

Emily Mongan
Emily Mongan

As a member of my high school's yearbook staff, there were few things more fun than digging through the filing cabinets in the back of the room and coming across old yearbooks. We spent hours of down time flipping through the pages, laughing at the hairstyles, fashions and names that used to be popular.

I have no doubt that future generations of Whitnall High School yearbook staffers will do the same thing with the yearbooks from my time, laughing at the graphic t-shirts, heavy eyeliner and over-straightened hairdos we all thought were so cute. While those old yearbooks provided us with plenty of laughs, they also served as the benchmark of high school cool throughout the decades, showing future generations which trends had staying power and which didn't (looking at you, frosted tips).

If the long-term care industry had anything comparable to a yearbook, it might just be CliftonLarsonAllen's Skilled Nursing Facility Cost Comparison Report. Now in its 30th year, the report came about when long-term clients of CLA began asking how they measured up to other companies in the industry. The report is a veritable time capsule of the trends driving LTC. Among other things, it illustrates how the industry has transformed over the years.

“We've gone from large wards to minimal privacy to reinventing buildings to try to really understand and respond to needs,” said CLA principal John Richter in the report. “And this tool we developed back in 1983 has been key to helping organizations succeed, improve and innovate.”

The report has also documented a 30-year shift toward shorter stays, higher acuity and higher costs.

“The whole industry has changed. It used to be convalescent care, there's a lot of assisted living, independent housing type people in the nursing homes,” said CLA principal Gordy Vetsch. “Now it's skilled care, it's post acute care, it's short stay, it's a lot of heavy Medicare alliance. We've really seen a huge increase in acuity.”

Unlike the yearbooks of yesterday, CLA's cost comparison report can the take trends of today and turn them into something even more valuable: predictions for tomorrow.

When the principals at CLA gaze into their crystal ball, what they see is a long-term care industry striving for higher quality at lower costs, and providing more housing options for seniors. Quality will move to the forefront, so much so that CLA predicts they'll roll out a report to measure quality, not just cost, in the coming years. Technology is also a key player in the future of the industry, with advancements like wearable monitoring devices helping advance patient care.

That's a pretty promising future for skilled nursing facilities, a model of care that the CLA principals admit they thought at one point would be “dead.” But the need for skilled end-of-life care is present, and there's a transformation among models of care creating SNFs that look like nothing the industry has seen before.

“The skilled nursing facility continues to find its place in the continuum,” said Richter. “We're seeing an amazing transformation in the country right now.”

If CLA's cost comparison report is long-term care's yearbook, consider the coming years to be its growth spurt. Just without all the questionable fashion choices, botched haircuts and rampant awkwardness.

Emily Mongan is McKnight's Staff Writer. Follow her @emmongan.




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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Emily Mongan.

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