Why the SNF of Tomorrow Might Look Like Today’s Assisted Living Community

Lifesprk, a senior care company providing services that span the home-based care continuum, is acquiring Tealwood Senior Living, which operates 35 communities in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The transaction is focused primarily on senior living, but three of Tealwood’s locations offer skilled nursing services – and the acquisition by Lifesprk might provide some insights into how institutional care could be shaped by the combination of changing consumer tastes and a pandemic-causing contagious disease.

Tealwood used to manage an additional 14 nursing homes throughout Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota, all in rural settings, Tealwood president and co-founder Howie Groff noted. And those facilities ended up being retrofitted with private rooms, through the addition of assisted living wings, he told Skilled Nursing News.


“Do I see a role for SNFs in the future? Absolutely. Is it going to have to change? Absolutely,” Groff said. “We can’t share bedrooms, and we can’t share, I don’t think, bathrooms going forward. As the pandemic has proved to us, it’s just not a good way to do infection control. And so the question becomes: How do you retrofit them to do it?”

Many SNF operators are grappling with just this question.

PruittHealth, a Georgia-based skilled nursing operator, is building out an expansion plan with a focus on adding private rooms, while a full-continuum senior living campus in Naples, Fla., was targeting private rooms even before COVID-19 and is now investing $41 million in a renovation to change its existing skilled nursing units into 84 single rooms with private bathrooms.


Groff, for his part, believes that when all the lessons of the pandemic and consumer demand are put into practice, SNFs in the future will have a very different atmosphere.

“Every time I’ve been with an association group where you design the care center of tomorrow, it sounds a hell of a lot like an assisted living [community],” he argued.

Lifesprk, on the other hand, provides a range of services for care based in the home and has worked on a variety of initiatives, from partnering with a major hospital system in Utah on a private-duty home care model to a hospital-at-home model in Minnesota during COVID-19. Founder and CEO Joel Theisen was in agreement with Groff that SNFs cannot be eliminated from the care continuum, but under the acquisition, the goal is to recreate that site of care as “geriatric centers of excellence.”

“We really want them to be a really, really high standard and really serve a purpose,” Theisen said. “And then we have to retool some of the architecture.”

Lifesprk had already been interested in adding senior living to its platform, which includes a SNF-at-home program, and one of the possibilities is enrolling residents in plans to cover the cost of certain programs and services by leveraging its existing health system and insurance partnerships.

Lifesprk is one of the direct-contracting entities (DCEs) in a payment model launched by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in 2019, and as a result, it can receive capitation payments to provide services to Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries.

“We’re basically putting ourselves in the shoes of the payer by having global risk contracts,” Theisen said of how the acquisition could shape SNFs. “It’s not FFS anymore, it’s not ‘Here you go, SNF, eat my [worthless leftovers].’ We basically need to value that enterprise. Is it providing a real great service that’s adding value to that customer? If it is, that’s great. If it’s not, then it’s not right. We can provide an alternative.”

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