The center of the long-term care universe — and it's growing

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James M. Berklan
James M. Berklan

From the president of the United States to healthcare regulators and providers of all stripe, the focus is increasingly on innovation and creating caregiving alliances. One place in the United States is taking it beyond all others.

It has biotechnology and manufacturing, and perhaps more famously horse racing, basketball and liquor.

But when it comes to senior care and long-term care innovation, there is no place like Louisville.

More than 500 companies specializing in long-term care, assisted living, home health, health information systems and more call Louisville home. They produce more than $50 billion in revenue and employ more than 20,000 professionals. It forms the largest concentration of eldercare companies in the United States.

And proud as they are about it, they want to share the experience. That's the message from the mayor of Louisville, Greg Fischer, and guys like John Reinhardt.

Louisville officials just released a strategic report that identifies four economic pillars they want to expand the economic base on. Bourbon (we'll get back to that later), advanced manufacturing, and transportation and logistics, are three of them. The fourth? Aging services.

“How many other cities would have that, political policy-wise, and alignment-wise, as an economic strength?” asks Reinhardt rhetorically. Both the city and the state of Kentucky are putting investment dollars where their mouths are to boost the effort. Academic institutions such as the University of Louisville are also in on it in a big way.

For Reinhardt, the founder and CEO of the International Center for Long-Term Care Innovation — or InnovateLTC — it amounts to a powerful cocktail of possibilities.

“Louisville has more investment going into bourbon — a visitor center and millions flowing into to make it a destination for bourbon aficionados. The brands are coming here,” he says with a measure of excitement. “We all envision the day that technology and aging would have some of the characteristics of what has happened with the bourbon industry … to taste it, experience and have programs around it.”

Some of these things are already underway.

An inordinate number of influential long-term care and aging-related “brands” are already in Louisville. Many, such as Kindred HealthCare, Humana and Atria Senior Living, have been around for a long time. Others, such as Signature HealthCare, which moved from Florida in 2010, arrived more recently. A city of Louisville website proudly touts many more.

City fathers estimate that nearly two dozen aging services start-ups emerge each year. One of the reasons that others — including researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs — will continue to come is the 7,500-square-foot Thrive Center, which will open in downtown Louisville in the first quarter of next year.

At about the same time, the Thrive Coalition, an alignment of provider and supplier organizations, will officially kick-off. Nonprofit providers will be a part of it, Reinhardt emphasizes. Training for caregivers — both unpaid and professionals — also will be highlighted.

“There's a special ecosystem here, and each of the players is expanding,” Reinhardt told McKnight's on Tuesday. Kindred's acquisition of home healthcare chain Gentiva is a prime example.

Innovate LTC's role is to help emerging little guys bloom in the market. Currently, huge gaps of understanding exist between fledgling businesses and eldercare reality, Reinhardt says. “There's no better place to get fleshed out. Nowhere in the world and definitely nowhere in the U.S.,” he adds like the proud Louisville native he is.

The challenge is educating the emerging businesses as to the needs and wants of the senior care world. For that, there are accelerator programs and other business booster shots. Also, the Thrive Center will be one way for consumers to express their needs and desires to the provider and manufacturing communities; alternately, providers are expected to use the center as a way to appeal to consumers.

Innovate LTC's goal is to help these young businesses acquire “a buzz, a market 'halo' and energy,” Reinhardt says. His group differs from others, he explains, because instead of charging a fee, it opts for an equity stake and a percentage of future revenues from an enterprise: “If we don't create value, we make nothing.”

Analogies to TV's “Shark Tank” inevitably arise.

“The sharks invest. We invest our time and energy, but mostly our knowledge,” Reinhardt says. “We're like an executive coach.

“This industry's so fragmented and moving so fast. Our idea is to be a conduit, to be a front door for this industry, to change everybody's minds.”

From where else but Louisville.

James M. Berklan is McKnight's Editor. Follow him @LTCEditorsDesk.

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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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