In the age of COVID-19, companies operating in the senior care space have been forced to be adaptable. It’s in this environment where Masonicare — a skilled nursing facility (SNF) operator — began amplifying its home-based care services while downsizing its facilities.
Wallingford, Connecticut-based Masonicare is a not-for-profit senior care provider that operates independent living, assisted living, memory care and continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) across three main campuses. The company also provides home health, hospice and palliative care, plus homemaker and companionship services.
It has seven home-based care branches throughout Connecticut and Rhode Island.
After experiencing lower occupancy rates, Masonicare sought permission from the state’s Department of Social Services to reduce the beds at its SNFs from 357 to 260 earlier this year.
The move was, in part, to ensure the availability of as many private rooms as possible to ensure the safety of Masonicare’s patients.
The move also marked a clear shift toward the prioritization of home-based care.
While the COVID-19 emergency, no doubt, played a role in this move, the journey that would lead Masonicare to lean on its home-based care services began roughly five years ago, according to Jon-Paul Venoit, the company’s CEO.
“Because of the size of our organization and the vast array of services we provide, we looked at the areas where we saw trends,” he told Home Health Care News.
When Masonicare examined its three main tranches of residential living, health care services and home- and community-based services (HCBS), the company discovered that its HCBS arm was seeing growth.
On the other hand, the company began to see demand diminish on the health care services side of the business, specifically with its SNF operations.
“Our home-based care company was seeing growth for a simple reason of people were looking to stay in their homes longer,” Venoit said. “This reduction in beds was really a culmination of our strategy of getting all of our service lines to where they needed to be based on the projected trends that we’re seeing.”
Venoit noted that, in general, the SNF space has seen average lengths of stays decline.
Last week, a study published by the journal Health Affairs found patients recovering in SNFs could often be safely discharged earlier. The research suggested that this would not lead to adverse health outcomes.
As a large organization, Masonicare has been able to capitalize on its continuum throughout the public health emergency.
Masonicare has seen about a 15% increase in its home-based care services and a 20% increase in its homemaker and companionship services, according to Venoit.
Despite Masonicare’s success with its HCBS arm, Venoit pointed out that competition in this space remains fierce.
“Home- and community-based services are actually becoming more and more competitive as we continue to see new organizations come into this space,” he said.
One of the ways Masonicare prepared its HCBS arm for the restructuring of its business was by beefing up its education efforts across the company.
“We did a lot of education at our board level, and we did a lot of education at our service-line level,” Venoit said. “We wanted to make sure that we brought in the best talent to grow that business and to develop that foundation. Would I tell you that when COVID first hit we were fully prepared? No. I don’t think anybody was fully prepared, but at the end of this, we were able to really make changes.”
Masonicare has also been able to ease through this shift with the aid of strong partnerships, including one with consulting and therapy management firm HealthPRO Heritage, according to Venoit.
“Part of our strategy was not worrying about doing everything ourselves,” he said. “We looked at partners, at other organizations that had a like-minded mission or philosophy that melded well with ours. HealthPRO was one of those organizations.”
Looking ahead, HCBS will continue to be a big part of Masonicare’s business overall.
“We need to shift our paradigm as to where we see our next customer, our next resident, our next patient, our next client, and the home care side is really that entry point,” Venoit said.
Ultimately, Venoit believes providers that can quickly shift gears based on consumer demand will see the most success in the future.
“Recognizing that pieces of their business may need to adapt differently than what they do today is really the recipe for success,” he said. “One of the benefits of Masonicare’s complex and robust system is that we have the ability to pivot and adapt nimbly in a manner where we’re not necessarily worried about one piece of our business carrying the day for everything else.”