Goodman Group Starts with Skilled Nursing to Roll Out Alexa Voice Tech

One senior living management company is looking to capitalize on voice technology in its skilled nursing settings to distinguish itself in the market — and to gain some efficiencies in an industry plagued by worker shortages.

The Goodman Group, a senior housing and care development and management company headquartered in Chaska, Minn., manages communities with more than 1,400 skilled nursing beds across eight states.* Other services managed by the company include home health, therapy, and pharmacy as well a design and development business.

Goodman sees an opportunity to improve communication for residents with voice technology, rolling it out first in skilled nursing units, CEO Craig Edinger told Skilled Nursing News. But the use of Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant technology is also an opportunity to stand out.

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“Everyone says, ‘How do I become a disruptor in the market?’ That’s the big term,” he said. “My view is really simple: You’re going to disrupt it with really good patient quality care and outcomes that are daily. That includes staffing and education and all of that. And the other piece is utilizing technology, from two stances: technology that is going to make staff more efficient, but is also [going to] treat the whole patient … and improve their quality of life.”

Goodman’s innovation committee saw Alexa as an opportunity that fit the criteria described by Edinger. As a result, the company is exploring rolling out Alexa throughout its managed skilled nursing communities.

The company’s current lineup of Alexa-enabled facilities includes a new 30-bed skilled nursing and transitional care development in Naples, Fla., where management recently hosted an open house.

The voice assistant isn’t replacing more traditional means of contacting staff, but the Alexa units will allow individuals to reach the front desk while also asking about appointment times, menus, and the weather.

Various skilled nursing providers have been piloting the use of Amazon Echo and Alexa as assistants, with the New Jewish Home rolling out a pilot version of a virtual assistant program for its skilled nursing residents in March 2018. However, researchers have noted that smart technology, for all its promise, frequently is not designed for seniors’ needs and presents some hurdles that operators and residents alike must overcome in terms of use. Those include the need to design memory aides that aren’t disruptive to older adults and not much spare funds for operators to invest in innovations like voice tech.

Treating the whole person

Edinger emphasized that Goodman is trying to treat the whole person — a goal he said puts the system into alignment with the goal of the Patient-Driven Payment Model (PDPM), the new Medicare reimbursement structure taking effect in October of this year. As a result, the new payment model is one of The Goodman Group’s top priorities this year, alongside a focus on recruitment and retention.

“One of the changes [is that] under PDPM, concurrent and group therapy, that’s kind of coming back,” Edinger noted.

The PDPM model shows a move toward reimbursements for a total episode of care, he said, which has led to an opportunity for The Goodman Group to showcase the quality of care at its managed short-term, transitional care rehab communities. And preparing for the model is a priority for 2019.

“It’s all going to be about treating that episode of care and the goal of the model is reducing length of stay, taking that rehab experience and changing it more to a clinical [one] and looking at it from that standpoint,” Edinger said. “One of the things we’ve already started is looking at opportunities for partnerships and also how do we educate and get staff prepared for the changes.”

Collaborations with acute care providers are going to be of particular interest, particularly given that inpatient hospitalizations have been on a mostly downward trajectory. But Edinger also noted that many assisted living residents find having to go off-campus for skilled care after several years to be “one of the worst experiences they have to deal with.” Creating partnerships with hospitals and maintaining shorter lengths of stay is key, as well as reducing readmissions, he added.

“That’s what everybody’s looking for,” Edinger said. “How do we create shorter length of stay and then also reduce returns to the hospital? Once the hospital gives us the opportunity, how do we make sure that we care for those individuals and that they don’t bounce back to the hospital?”

Tim Mullaney contributed reporting.

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect that The Goodman Group is not a non-profit, as originally stated, and it manages skilled nursing beds in communities located in eight states, not nine as originally stated. SNN regrets these errors.

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