Long-term care operators must accept their new census realities to successfully adapt operations for post-pandemic conditions, according to one expert. 

“It’s hard to see census where it is,” said Erin Shvetzoff Hennessey, CEO and principal for Minnesota-based consulting firm Health Dimensions Group. “We have communities that used to run at 99% [sic] for long-term care and now we’re proactively calling people to get referrals. Others have seen a 10% to 15% decline in census which is a lot in a low margin business.”

Hennessey’s comments during a Thursday webinar designed to help providers reposition themselves for success post-pandemic. 

Accepting census reality means that each facility must take into account a realistic rebound speed, noted Hennessy. Providers should consider vaccine acceptance, resumption of elective surgeries, consumer confidence, home health diversion rates and local competition as they calculate their next moves.

“The first step is just accepting that for the next [several] months, year, this is your new census reality,” she added. 

Hennessey also encouraged operators to develop a new expense profile that takes into account potential necessary adjustments, such as decreasing the number of beds, smaller staff sizes and negotiating debt or lease payments, based on what census looks like today. 

Operators should also be open to new models of care and consider increasing clinical capabilities, expanding into assisted or independent living, or determining if there’s a need for memory care in their market, if they can. 

“I encourage you to do a market-demand study,” she said. “You need to understand what’s in the market and what the demand is and then expand across the continuum where the need is.”

Hennessey also stressed the importance of having accurate modeling and budget projections for cash flow and to remain laser focused on the end goal. She encouraged operators to remember to trust their data and remember these actions aren’t permanent, but rather an interim step to survive. 

“You have a responsibility to survive for your staff, for your residents, for your family, for the community, especially rural communities. You have a responsibility to the greater good of that community to survive if the nearest senior living and nursing home is 50 miles away,” she said. “I’m just really encouraging you to get laser focused on that.” 

The webinar was hosted by Prime Care Technologies.