Welcome to Raising Tuck podcast. I'm your host Amber Barden. Today our guest is Neil Cannon . He is the CEO of LED Dynamics. Neil, welcome to the show.Speaker 2:
Thank you AmberSpeaker 1:
Neil, you and I met recently at a conference where I was giving a presentation and at the end of the presentation you raised your hand and you wanted to let everybody in the room know about your product, which I thought was really interesting and that led us to where we are today to do this podcast. First of all, let's talk about you. Can you do an introduction, tell our listeners who you are, how did you come into this company? And then from there let's talk about what is LED Dynamics.Speaker 2:
Thank you for that. Amber. I'm one of these guys who gets sent to a company that is supposed to make a lot of change happen at that kind of company and I've been successful with that a couple of times in the fiber optic space. I'm pretty technologically focused kind of companies only then I was lucky enough to get involved in a lighting company, I think it was around 2008, which you would think of as a hard time. But we were able to market that company to General Electric, quite a good outcome for both the company and for the acquirer. Once you do this twice, you get a reputation <laugh> guess or something. But I came to this company LED Dynamics primarily because it was a very technically savvy group that was working in a lot of different areas and we've brought a lot of that technical capability to bear on the problem of building better lighting for elder care . We have very creative technology staff and they came up with an idea to literally replicate sunlight inside the building at higher intensities so we can make the lighting do more what's known as the circadian entrainment of the elders, one of the things you discover, but as you get past a certain point, sleep becomes a challenge. The melatonin levels in an elderly person are much, much lower than somebody. Somebody's in their teens or their twenties for that reason. You see sleep problems, sleep problems in elder care environments, usually foretell falls, trips to the er, sadly even broken hips . There's numerous costs that an elder care provider will see because of sleep disturb. We feel like we've got a technology now that should allow people to be say inside, but outside <laugh> if you will. It's a more intense lighting package. If you as a young person tour through one of our installations, you would probably think the lighting is quite bright and that's intentional because the elder eye is not as sensitive as the younger eye . So we have to deliver this light into the eye. That then varies throughout the day. If you think about sunlight in the morning, that'll be quite amber in the middle of the day. It'll be bright white blue thing that's called sort of noontime lighting. And then in the evening you'll get amber lighting. That's what your body's designed to handle. That's how we all live . Before we moved indoors, we had natural light sunlight outside and how we were circadian and trained and we moved inside. Now people basically 80% endorse and in an elder care facility, if it's an icy day, they're not taking anybody outside. If there's any weather at all, it's pretty hard for these folks to get outdoors and then even then to have an adequate amount of time to be exposed to natural light . It's another challenge for many of these facilities. So we thought, let's bring it inside. Let's build up a strategy where operators could have a circadian entrainment, lighting indoors. And that's proved to be pretty successful. The technology we have does exactly what the sun does in the morning. If you looked at it, it's amber middle of the day day. It's quite blue and the end of the day it's again amber and you walk the person through melatonin cycle. Basically in the middle of the day you should have your melatonin very low in the evening. It should be coming back up, preparing you for sleep if you can keep that going. We've worked with sleep researchers and folks that are deep in the topic and they've told us, I , my joke is given them the lighting of La Jolla sunny every day , you don't really wanna follow clouds or gray days 'cause that's only gonna harm people. And now we're coming on to daylight savings changes. These are not beneficial either, so we leave the lighting alone. It works just like the sun inside and operates on a very exacting schedule. That took a few innovations. We had to innovate on the optical front and on the controls front 'cause you have to actively manage the light all day long, which we do. Out of that, we've already got one installation. We've got a group checking out, a second installation that's gonna go live in Virginia and they've been mostly new construction projects because of persistent interest. We've come up with a strategy that will work for home care as well. It's still in beta tests , but it's been pretty well received. We've got a number of people trying it out and they're pretty happy with it because a lot of elders are trying to age at home. We've been recently adding that to our portfolio of product ideas, but the basic idea is to give people essentially what they should have by being outside indoors and make sure that their circadian entrainment is as good as it can be from a lighting perspective. You can't keep 'em people from drinking coffee, you can't keep people from watching TV too late or any of the other things that influence your ability to fall asleep in the evening. But at least the lighting can be 100% encouraging. The circadian entrainment, which is what we're doing.Speaker 1:
Sleep is such an important part of our daily lives. I know when I don't sleep, I am a disaster. I'm really curious, how did this idea come to be? How did the companies get founded in the first place and and how did this problem get identified?Speaker 2:
The company is actually quite a longstanding provider of LED solutions. It's, it was founded by a gentleman named Bill McGrath very early on. He was an innovator in the electronics and control space. Came up with such things as the very first stylist , installable tube, speed up retrofits and stuff like that. And then over time this little company has become a provider to other bigger companies. If you look inside of other people's products, you'd find our know-how in there even some of the largest lighting companies buy our solutions for that. So we were discussing new areas of expansion and there's a field in lighting called color tuning, which is what you have to do to get from amber in the morning to blue in the middle of the day. And amber, again, you gotta change the light as you do it. And Bill had a very clever idea about how to do that, but also correct it because if , if you don't do it just so you wind up with a light that doesn't look right, it's got a little bit of a pink cue to it and you don't want that. So Bill solved that problem with a third chip and then it has kind of a dynamic control range. The technology was actually invented on October 11th, 2019, so I remember that day. And then we put it through a number of stages of development and now it is being installed in elder care facilities precisely for this reason to encourage circadian trainman and enable sleep . So the company has done this from its headquarters in Randolph, Vermont. It is next to a very competent technical college. So we've had a very good ability to recruit talented engineers. In short, the company's idea of inventing this was, it was at first an optical curiosity, we could do this. That's kind of neat. And then we started to dig in and look at plausible applications like it was sold into museums for better quality of light . It was sold into retail for exactly the same reason . Strangely, we went in to talk to the retail customers and they said, you know what? We're all sleeping better <laugh>. And I was like, okay, wait a minute. There's something else going on here. And then we started to dig in and it turned out the Department of Energy through their Pacific Northwest National Labs had done some limited studies on this and had already shown , uh, you could suppress sleep disturbance by having a changing light source. So they already shown that independent study followed up with another one. Harvard did a study on falls. Same conclusion, better lighting equals less problems basically because the residents sleep better. So we thought, okay, that's a good target market. We, through one of our investors, we got connected with progressive elder care group. They've been working with us quite succinctly since then. Kind of in the middle of it, we're deploying first projects and deploying new solutions to meet more of the market demand and, and feeling quite good about it because I think we've got something that's genuinely helpful.Speaker 1:
So from what you're describing about the way that the system works, is this primarily for residents that are in their room most of the time? Or is this applicable to residents that are independent assisted that are moving around and not in their room all day?Speaker 2:
The best is if you can keep a person under the same lighting all day long. In other words, if the lighting's gonna change, let's say a building had skylights in it and you were watching the sun change throughout the day, that would give the person the experience to being outside, not only at least in the character of light, they're receiving maybe not the quantity but the character through the skylights. So we took that approach. We cover the whole area. We call our product perfectly.Speaker 1:
When you say the whole area, do you mean the entire campus?Speaker 2:
We actually would prefer that in the elder care facilities, primarily memory care is where the most challenged residents are residing. In that case, those are usually enclosed areas where access is controlled because some of the folks might get confused and leave. So they have to control the area. So most of the activities of the elder care , memory care patients are within a controlled area. Our thesis is that it should be used by everybody, essentially. This would help at any stage in a person's development as they age. However, it's clear the most acute need is within memory care because that's where the sleep disturbances are most profound. The science is kind of coming round , people are accepting it more and more. It turns out that addition to rods and cones in our eyes, we have this third pathway and that is the control, that's the control of our sleep wake. It's called a intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cell. And that particular cell senses blue light. So if you look at a computer screen late at night and it's emanating a great deal of blue light, it's likely to reawaken you at a time when you don't want to be reawaken. And this science has been worked out over the last couple of decades. And the other science that's come online just since 2012 is an understanding of how important sleep is to our cognitive capability. And it's how your brain clears its metabolites. So when you like go for a workout thing and you wind up with a lot of lactic acid, your lymphatic system will clear that. It turns out your brain has no, such as your brain, doesn't have a way of clearing its metabolites the way the rest of your body does. So what happens is, is you spend time and energy throughout the day, about 25% of that goes into your brain. It's only 2% of mass. So it's a very small organ in your brain relative to the amount of energy it is . And then let waste product, all the byproducts of thinking. But when is it clear ? It turns out it's only cleared in the last stage of deep sleep. If you wake up in the morning and you had four night of sleep and you have a familiar brain fog, you know, you run into the espresso machine, you get the espresso and it counterman some of that stuff, but really it's still there. Now the clinical observation that seems it's been around for years, but it's also been more recently interrogated Alzheimer's patients, the hardest patients that any of these facilities are working with, if they have good sleep, they do not significantly progress in their disease. If they have poor sleep, what is noted is their disease progresses very quickly, probably gonna be at some point a tie up of the sleep behavior and the propensity to either have Alzheimer's or have Alzheimer's. That is unstoppable. That work was done. And we cite that in our discussions and it does resonate, especially with medical professionals that work in elder care , went up to UVM , talked to the gerontology lab, the research is not fully defined and we'd like to be able to say to people, put this in, everybody will sleep fine. And the answer is, it's not quite that clear. But clearly coming out of the research is these indicators that this is an important topic. And of course it plays immediately to resident satisfaction. If they're sleeping better, they like where they are better. And that's what we're endeavoring to do is give people an environment where sleep is easy for especially these vulnerable populations folks initially first. And then I think what'll happen is the rest of the facilities will be booked in this way.Speaker 1:
If a community would like to move forward with implementing the solution, what would they need to have ready? What would the install look like? Can you walk us through that?Speaker 2:
The vast majority of our projects fall into two categories. One is they're building a new facility and they'd like to put in the most modern lighting. In that case, it's very straightforward. We work with the architects who are working on the building and many of them are actually increasingly aware that this is important. The last project we worked on with a very progressive architect gentleman named Steve <inaudible> , and we didn't have to convince him of anything, so to speak. So he was a very strong advocate. And why do they want this? Because they want better projects, they want things to be done better. And then of course, the operator, we have a philosophy of just making everything quote unquote set and forget. So the idea is that you shouldn't have to do anything to this. Once you install it, it's very simple to reset it and change it if you need to. The vast majority of lighting systems usually don't get reset. They're usually put in once and and just operate. So we start it out with a set and forget idea. Now the harder proposal in some ways is to do a retrofit. A retrofit of a building that has a lot of different types of lighting that might've been modified over years can be a bit more challenging. But we've succeeded in that vein as well. We have what's known as retrofit kits, meaning we can go into existing fixtures, we can put the light engine in. It's just a set of ICS and LEDs that we insert into the light fixture. And then it works just the same as it would in the new construction. The last project we wanted to do, which was strongly asked , many of the residents come with their own lamps. So we came up with a strategy of using color changing bulbs with a specific type of software and control so that even the lamp next to their bedside or over their desks would be controlled in exactly the same way. So everything is moving just like sunlight. And we've become increasingly expert at dealing with both the retrofit scenario and the new construction. I wouldn't expect that an operator would need to do more than allow us in with their facilities managers or their architects if it were a new construction. And we can carry the process forward from there. Most of the discussions we have now are directly with operators. The vast majority of operators are listening intently. The biggest stops to our work are typically the company can't afford it. If they can't afford it, are they allocating resources elsewhere at this point? And then of course, the last piece of the puzzle is everybody wants that definitive study that says, this lighting does exactly this, and we're working on that. We don't have it all yet with our friends at p and l . Slowly getting to the point where we can make stronger claims. In short, I think it's just a matter of us interacting with the operators, their agents, architects, or the people that are looking after the buildings directly.Speaker 1:
Neil, this has been really interesting. I've really learned a lot from everything that you've shared on this podcast. Is there anything else that you think our listeners should know?Speaker 2:
I think there's one last point to make in this process. I'm actually gonna quote a guy who's quite a good sleep researcher, a gentleman named Ken Wright. He runs the sleep research program at University of Colorado, one of six labs worldwide. And we brought him this and set it on his desk and he said, what is this? And I said, well, it varies just like sunlight does. And he , he looked up at us and kind of surprised. He said, well, that oughta work. And then , uh, there's another gentleman who's in a similar way, he works at the University of Oregon, a guy named Kevin Houser , and we sent him the light. He's got it over his desk, says , that's the best light I've ever seen. It literally is perfect light. It's light as we should have had it all along. It's just that the technology is only now getting to the point where we can do that. You know, fluorescent tubes, no chance incandescent bulbs, you couldn't get there. But with our LED technology, we can do this now. It's just now becoming a value proposition for people.Speaker 1:
Thank you so much. Neil . Tell me where can our listeners find all about you? Where they can they get more information if they wanna reach out and get in touch with you?Speaker 2:
We maintain more than one website. LED Dynamics is the holding company over a couple of other things. We sell B two C through a group called LED Supply, and we sell directly into the fixture market or a division we have called Pro Bloom . You go to either LED dynamics.com or pro.com , you'll see significant reference to perfect light technology, color changing technology aimed at this. Lastly, I do have a YouTube video on the whole topic that's a little more elaborate with slides and everything. And that's under LED Dynamics, Neil Cannon.Speaker 1:
Great. Thank you so much Neil. And listeners, if you'd like to provide feedback on this episode or if you have ideas for a future episode, you can find email@example.com and raising tech podcast everywhere on social media. And as always, thank you for listening.
In this episode of Raising Tech, our host, Amber Bardon, has a stimulating conversation with LEDdynamics CEO, Neil Cannon. LEDdynamics has a unique tunable white light technology, known as PERFEKTLight, that is designed to mirror natural sunlight from sunrise to sunset to create better sleep. This can lead to enhanced memory, reduced risk of falls, and overall improvement of cardiovascular health.
Listen to the entire episode to discover how LEDdynamics is helping residents in Senior Living communities improve sleep, which promotes healing and aids in patient recovery.
Additional Video Links: YouTube, Prolume
Raising Tech is powered by Parasol Alliance, The Strategic Planning & Full-Service IT Partner exclusively serving Senior Living Communities.
Amber Bardon: (00:00)
Welcome to Raising Tech podcast. I'm your host Amber Barden and today our guest is Rafael Haciski, who is the Vice President of Commercial Insurance at Johnson Kendall Johnson, also known as JKJ, which is a full service insurance brokerage with a large senior living group. Welcome to the show.
Rafael Haciski: (00:17)
Thank you Amber. Thank you for having me.
Amber Bardon: (00:19)
To start off with, just dive a little bit deeper and give us a little bit more background about yourself and about your company.
Rafael Haciski: (00:24)
I am a former attorney turned insurance broker. I was a white shoe lawyer defending Fortune 500 companies for about a decade and just sort of general business litigation and then that kind of delved into insurance coverage disputes where we were adverse to the insurance carriers on large denied claims. And I segued from that and was pulled into the insurance brokerage side where I currently work with a little over 300 plus Senior Living communities on their insurance and risk management. JKJ is a little bit unique from a makeup standpoint where most brokerages focus on geography focused on where they are for their business. We serve the nation, but we chose to kind of delve into industry segments instead. So we have a senior living group, we have sports and entertainment group, we have a real estate group and international group. All of those require sort of above and beyond insurance and risk management services and we provide that from a hands-on approach.
Rafael Haciski: (01:19)
I would say a lot of brokers place coverage and then are out of sight, out of mind, onto the next account. We're very unique in that when we place the insurance coverage for our clients, that's the beginning of our story for that year. We're action planning the policy here, identifying loss trends, figuring out where we're gonna deploy our risk management and safety services from our office to our clients so that when we come back to the renewal following year we have a good story to tell the market that then allows them to get a little bit more flexible when it comes to pricing and coverage considerations. We're a little bit unique when compared to our competition out there. Another thing I'll add is we're an independent brokerage, in the insurance world right now is seeing a lot of acquisitions and mergers and affiliations.
Rafael Haciski: (02:02)
There's shareholders. We at JKJ are our own shareholders and we're going be that way for years to come and we're proud of that fact and we know that that really lends a lot of value to our clients because they know that the people they're seeing on the screen or the people they're seeing in their office who are providing those services are the people they're going be working with throughout the relationship. It is a very family atmosphere at JKJ. We all are in it to win it and if we win account, we all win an account and we're excited to provide our services to more and more organizations out there who have such a heightened need. Cyber obviously being one of those.
Amber Bardon: (02:32)
We're definitely gonna dive a little bit more into the topic of cybersecurity insurance on this episode today. But before we get to that, I'm just curious, what can you share that you're seeing as some of the top trends in the insurance area that senior living providers should be aware of?
Rafael Haciski: (02:48)
Funny, when people ask questions like that, I always like to kind of go to the end. What I mean by that is go to the bad thing that is going to happen or has happened because that's what insurance carriers have to do when they underwrite an opportunity. When they look at a new account for renewal purposes, they have actuarial analysis and folks out there who are looking out and seeing what could happen from a claim standpoint, from a frequency standpoint, from a severity standpoint, what's going to happen. Then also what is the organization doing from a protection standpoint that addresses those concerns and those claims that could pop up. COVID really turned things upside down because it forced underwriters at the insurance carriers to underwrite to a future that people did not know what was going to happen. I think that in turn really created a lot of market volatility from a pricing standpoint, from coverage terms were going to be offered by these carriers.
Rafael Haciski: (03:36)
So right now I think what we're seeing is, I wouldn't say a plateauing, but the dust is finally settling post COVID in a time where we really didn't know what was happening or what was going to happen. Then as a result, COVID tweaked things a little bit. For example, from property standpoint I can say that very large organizations all the way down to personal homeowners alike have experienced extreme rate hikes when it comes to property coverage. It's because of the fact that COVID has increased labor costs, increased material costs, the cost to replace things has gone up. There's a lot of fluctuation volatility, I guess you could say right now we are all kind of doing our best at JKJ to keep our clients ahead of that game and kind of doing things that really do benefit the organization from an enterprise risk management standpoint, but also in a best-in-class standpoint.
Rafael Haciski: (04:19)
All the great risk management tools that are utilized by our clients allows me and my team as the broker for the organization to pitch that community or that organization, that company in the best light possible for the insurance carriers. That really is a need right now. The carriers need to hear a story, they want to figure out what's the plan from a strategic standpoint, what are they doing that's different from all the other similar organizations down the road that you know, makes them better than the other or makes them less likely to have something bad happen that then would have to be covered. So there's just been a lot of like volatility I think over the last couple years post covid and fortunately now I think we're starting, you know, flatline a little bit when it comes to renewals and how things are looking out there.
Amber Bardon: (04:58)
Can you elaborate a little bit more on what providers can do to help protect themselves and prepare and some best practice tips to deal with these risks and changes that you just mentioned?
Rafael Haciski: (05:08)
A lot of times we find, unfortunately, is that people are busy and think that the busyness factor really negatively affects risk management. When we come into an account and we perform a mock audit, mock mystery shopper walkthrough of the organization from our safety guys who all come in and point fingers at things that should be tweaked or changed or fixed, a lot of times when we present our findings, it's the first time that the executives are hearing about those things. That tells me that we are all way too busy and do not have enough time to focus on what's important or prioritize on what's important because what you don't know is going to kill you. That's what we've been finding a lot is that when we're coming out and pointing our hand on a new account, the things that we identify are things that really were not known prior to our involvement. We know that those are the items that insurance carrier will look for the minute they step foot on a community. It's really about staying ahead of the game, giving yourself enough time, enough runway, pre-renewal to sort of figure out how you the organization look from an insurance standpoint and what are you are doing to better that look. Not a lot of that is happening right now. So we really try respectfully, politely to push on that a lot because we know that will benefit the organization from a risk management standpoint.
Amber Bardon: (06:17)
Just to walk me through, how do you guys go about that? Do you have like an assessment or a checklist that you're measuring the community against some standards?
Rafael Haciski: (06:24)
I like to say it's sort of a test drive of what JKJ does from a service standpoint, but really it also helps us identify where the problems are. We'll come out in the onset of meeting CEO, CFO who typically handles the insurance program. We'll say, "Hey look, let one of our guys just come out to your community for a day and you won't even know that he or she or there. They will do a walkthrough and come back with a extensive report on what they found that they inspected the, the parking lot, the parking garage, the boilers, the basement, the roof, whatever it is." That report becomes square one towards what do we together need to do to make this organization a little bit more buttoned up from a risk management standpoint. Similarly, we'll ask for lost data. I mentioned before about going to the end of what bad thing will happen and then reverse engineering the claim to make sure it's covered, how it's handled, et cetera.
Rafael Haciski: (07:13)
We like to take loss data because that's what the insurance carriers will do when they're looking at a renewal is evaluate the loss experience for that specific organization. That loss data will tell us where claims are coming from. Is it the CNAs who are getting hurt on Mondays because maybe they're getting hurt actually on the weekends and bringing their injury into the organization. That loss data really helps us identify specific to that organization where the problems are coming from. Finally we like to take a look at the current program. The current insurance package insurance is basically a contract. Page 1, it says you're covered for everything and there's 150 pages after that that says maybe, you have to do this if you want that. By the end, people don't know what they're covered for or what they're not covered for. So by us collecting those policies at the beginning of the relationship allows us to identify what's covered, what's not covered, if those coverage terms or those coverage aspects match up with the operations that that organization is doing because a lot of times we find that folks don't realize that they're not properly covered and that's where we really shine.
Amber Bardon: (08:14)
Let's talk a little bit about cybersecurity, whether people like it or not or whether it's good or bad, the insurance industry has really pushed all of the communities to take cybersecurity really seriously and that's a big shift over the last couple years. It's to the point now where I feel like a lot of other entities are getting involved in the security aspect. So financial auditors, with all of this information, with all these changes, it can be really hard for a community to understand what exactly do they really need to do because at the end of the day, most of the changes that they're making and they're implementing and they're going ahead with it can be very disruptive to operations and they're doing it primarily to be able to get cybersecurity insurance. That's what's really driving it.
Amber Bardon: (08:52)
What we've seen is, we've had financial auditors come in and and say things like, " Oh now you need a 14 character password" and you need all these things that are not actually being required by insurance companies. So can you talk through that a little bit? What are you seeing as the trends? What would be your advice to a community to help prepare for this?
Rafael Haciski: (09:08)
I'm going to take a step back further and just go a little insurance geek for a moment because I think it helps. Back in the day before all of this cyber stuff was a thing, most organizations have general liability policy that covers slips, trips, falls, property damage, that basically if your organization gets sued, your general liability policy hopefully would step up way back when there was a little bucket of money within that GL policy, that general liability policy that was saved for cyber related events.
Rafael Haciski: (09:36)
Fast forward a couple years after that and carriers realized that cyber was beginning to become an emerging risk from a just exposure standpoint as a result that they did is instead of providing that little bucket of money in the GL policy, they said we're now just gonna bake in an exclusion that says we the carrier will not pay for any cyber related events in the GL policy.
Rafael Haciski: (09:57)
Out of that was created the cyber liability world, it's a little bit unique because it's what's called a first-party and a third-party coverage party in that it's protecting your stuff, your organization's servers, files, et cetera. Also it's a third-party coverage for when you're going to get sued for potentially data breach or a ransomware event that the HIPAA information has been released inadvertently from the organization. So really the cyber policy is a unique hybrid form that was created out of the GL policy, having that exclusionary terms in there for cyber events. And then the other problem you have is that other policies, GL auto property, they're on what's called an ISO form Insurance Society Office form, ISO. What it means is that when you take those forms off the the cabinet and look at the terms, there's going be boilerplate language where everything starts from a coverage standpoint. Cyber does not have an ISO form, which means that every carrier has their own language when it comes to what coverage they'll provide and what coverage they will not provide.
Rafael Haciski: (10:58)
That makes it incumbent on the broker and the organization to identify, like I mentioned before, the coverage terms of the policy that you're buying. What are you really getting out of the policy and is it going to be protecting what you need? Further along those lines, you now have conditions that get attached to the policy that says you can only get this coverage if you do XYZ. If you put MFA in place, fill all your firewalls, all of that stuff.
Rafael Haciski: (11:24)
The carriers now are getting a lot more intelligent when it comes to the underwriting aspects and the requirement aspects of what they require from the organization from a protection standpoint. Similar to almost like a property program. I'm gonna look at a building and I'm say "I'm the carrier, I'm not gonna cover that building because you have not put sprinklers in the attic."
Rafael Haciski: (11:40)
"Well I'm the cyber carrier, I'm not going to cover that organization because you have not put MFA in place." So those terms and conditions have started to really kind of pick up steam and have become a little bit more onerous. We're going to provide you coverage but you have to do all these things first and all those things first cost money, it's flipped organizations upside down because they're scrambling to make sure that they're brought up to speed as best possible and are protected but also presentable to the carriers so that they get the coverage. In the end I think the key here is to pressure test your cyber policy. First of all, buy cyber coverage, you have to do that. Two years ago, three years ago, I had people in the nonprofit world come up to me and say, "Hey, I don't buy cyber liability and I don't need it because I'm a small nursing home."
Rafael Haciski: (12:20)
I said, "Well, you're a small nursing home and that's why you're going to get hacked so you better be buying cyber." Right now, we're seeing a lot of that happen where you folks hopefully are buying the program but then now they're getting pushed by the carriers to get things in place so that they're properly protected as best possible per the carrier conditions. What are you doing pre-loss, pre-loss mitigation services? Are you doing those fire drills similar to doing a fire drill for property again, you know, ringing that bell and making sure everybody gets out of the building, let's make sure that they do that right. Well let's do a cyber fire drill and how many times are you doing that throughout the policy year to educate your staff, educate people at the organization about cyber risk and how clicking on that link is maybe not a good idea or it's okay to call the person who allegedly emailed you with that PDF that you don't know what it is.
Rafael Haciski: (13:04)
It's all of those things that really we have to kind of focus on and it's moving at such a fast pace that keeping up with the changes and fluctuations in what carriers are in the business versus what carriers are not in the business and what has to be done to be best in class. All that stuff really requires a partner, a consultant JKJ. We're very proud of the fact that years and years ago we started our cyber practice knowing that this newfound exposure was gonna be a big one and something that a lot of organizations are gonna have to consider.
Amber Bardon: (13:32)
It can be really confusing for a community to have all this different information coming from so many different aspects and to really know what they should move forward with because like you said, all of this stuff costs money and or has an impact on operations. So the big one is obviously MFA, we're running into challenges with staff having to carry phones when they're not supposed to have phones on the floor.
Amber Bardon: (13:51)
Can you talk a little bit more about MFA, because I know that's a big one. What are you seeing? Are you seeing it for everybody? For just email users, VPN remote access?
Rafael Haciski: (14:01)
That's a common request from the carriers and really starting to see it be a requirement across the board. I'd be remiss if I didn't bring up the fact that the application, the document that is used to begin the renewal process that is filled out by the organization and presented to the carrier then takes that information and begins to underwrite the opportunity. The information that's in that application is so vitally important because what'll happen is the carriers at the time of the loss months and months after say a renewal has taken place, will go back to the application. We just had this unfortunately, where it was represented in the application that they had MFA across the board, sure enough, there was a ransomware event and the sort of forensic IT that took place identified that the hacker got through a hole that was supposed to have MFA in place and did not.
Rafael Haciski: (14:47)
The carrier found out about that and they came back and said, "We're not going to cover this claim because you said that you had MFA in place and you did not." Very simple argument, but it's something that should have been identified well before. Again, that identifies that cruise control mentality. I think that I've mentioned that a lot of these organizations do when they're doing through the applications, going through the things that they've done so far from an IT standpoint. As a result we're seeing a lot of our renewals, actually almost all of our cyber renewals involve the heads of IT at the organization who can speak those acronyms and talk about what they're doing from a security standpoint competently and also identifying, "No, we don't have MFA in that area. We need to put that in place." Definitely is a hot topic right now with carriers. They're going to come in and perform network scans before they even speak to us or the organization similar to what a hacker would do. We're aware of that and we need to make sure that our clients are prepared for it as well.
Amber Bardon: (15:37)
It's definitely been a challenge because not all of the insurance carriers out there can accurately define what they want. With MFA, we had one situation where we could not get them to tell us what they wanted, if they wanted it just for email or all domain users. They just really couldn't define what their own requirements were. So that's definitely a challenge that's going on as well as just figuring out what does this all mean and what exactly needs to be applied and how should it be applied when there's multiple methods.
Rafael Haciski: (16:02)
One of the most common cyber incidents that happen out there right now is ransomware events, social engineering theft, email compromise, data breach, all of those require some door to be open or some hole to be available for the hacker to pound into. The scary part is, is that unlike criminal who walks into like a jewelry store and steal all the diamonds, hackers can go into the organization and just sit there and just observe for months, if not years on end. Look at the calendars of the executives. See when so-and-so is out and when can I send that email from the CEO that says "I'm at the dentist office, but I need to see that W2 right now. So email it to me right now, right now, right now." We're also hung up on getting things off our list and making our inbox shorter.
Rafael Haciski: (16:43)
It feeds into that where the claim is going to happen because of the folks on the other end just aren't being complacent. They're focusing on something else. That hole has been there and open carriers don't really know how to underwrite to that. And so that's what we're seeing. From a pricing standpoint, from a cover standpoint, it's trending upwards because I think carriers are still figuring out what they're covering and what they're not covering from a cyber standpoint. And again, as you know, things are changing by the month when it comes to how and when these hackers can get into the organizations.
Amber Bardon: (17:10)
It's a whole new world. And like I said earlier, really the credit does go to the insurance companies for pushing the issue of security because without that I don't think it ever would've happened. I think a lot of providers weren't willing to invest the cost or the time or the resources to implement a lot of these measures.
Rafael Haciski: (17:25)
Another area I would just bring up is prevention, the during, which is the insurance, but then the aftermath. I might have made this analogy in previous conversation I've had with you, but you have a burning building, you know to get the heck out of the building and not get burned. You have a cyber event, organizations don't know what to do. Their wi-fi goes down, their IT goes down altogether, email is out, the phones don't work. All of that stuff happens. And so what are you doing from an incident response standpoint? Who are you engaging from? Legal forensic, who's on the panel? Who's been pre-approved by the insurance carrier? Who are we calling to handhold us through this very bad thing happening because I don't know if you've been in the office when something like that happens, but we're all running around like chickens with our heads cut off trying to figure out "how do I get my email back up? Why am I not hearing from anybody?" Having that proper incident response plan in place as well really helps organizations navigate through that. It's not if, it's when you're going to get hacked and brought down.
Amber Bardon: (18:17)
For every community out there that's listening, if security is not one of your top priorities, hopefully this podcast will help convince you to put it on your priority list. Rafael, this conversation's been really interesting. Thank you so much for coming on the show. Is there anything else you want our listeners to know?
Rafael Haciski: (18:33)
Give yourself whatever time you think you're giving to get into your next renewal and double that because the time is your friend and the longer runway you can give yourself to adequately prepare for the next renewal or bringing up your organization to your best-in-class light that I mentioned. Really do that. Find a broker out there that actually does know what they're doing. We are proudly a Two-Time Cyber Broker of the Year, beating out all the big guys when it comes to the service model that we have at our office, what we provide for our clients. I mentioned that review of the cyber policy or loss analysis. We do that as sort of our spade work to show folks who potentially would like to work with us. What we can do, it allows us to really red light yellow light, green light the policy and say here's where we've identified problems in your program. We know we can help and fix those problems. And then at that point it's the action point of where do we go from here? Pressure test your program. Don't let just the real bad claim be the thing that's going to attest what you've put together from an IT standpoint.
Amber Bardon: (19:29)
And where can our listeners find you if they wanna learn more about JKJ.
Rafael Haciski: (19:33)
All over LinkedIn, Johnson Kendall Johnson. We're also out and about at many of the senior living and other related conferences, LeadingAge. Most, if not all of the denominational conferences, within that LeadingAge bucket. LinkedIn is typically the best way to find me. We're there and happy to serve.
Amber Bardon: (19:49)
Thank you so much for joining me today.
Rafael Haciski: (19:50)
Thank you. Appreciate your time.
Amber Bardon: (19:52)
And listeners, you can find more of our episodes on RaisingTechPodcast.com. You can send us feedback on this episode or if you have an idea to submit for a future episode, you can also find us at that link. And as always, thank you for listening.
In this episode of Raising Tech, our host, Amber Bardon, has an intriguing conversation with Rafael Haciski, Vice President of Commercial Insurance at Johnson Kendall Johnson (JKJ), about how JKJ's personalized services allow clients to focus on their businesses while JKJ provides direction in managing cybersecurity risks.
JKJ's cyber practice is focused on creating risk management programs and educating clients on the importance of cyber incident response and changes in insurance terms. Discover how JKJ is keeping Senior Living communities properly covered by listening to the full episode!
Raising Tech is powered by Parasol Alliance, The Strategic Planning & Full-Service IT Partner exclusively serving Senior Living Communities.
Welcome to Raising Tech . I'm your host, Amber Bardon, and today we have a very, very special guest , someone I've known for a long time, someone who's very famous because I talk about him all the time as one of the original founders and inceptors of Parasol Alliance. Welcome to the show, Bill Lowe.Bill Lowe:
Thank you, Amber.Amber Bardon:
Bill, give us a brief intro about yourself. Who are you, where do you work? Tell us a little bit about yourself.Bill Lowe:
I , I'm the c e O of Chicago Methodist Senior Services. One interesting fact about myself is that ever since college, I've never worked for a for-profit organization. I've been in healthcare my whole career. Started my career at Rush Hospital. I wish I could tell you that I knew at like age 18 or 19 that I only wanted to work for nonprofits. But I have to admit that Rush was the best job offer I got out of college that was fortunate. It was a great place to start a career, and it sort of set me on the path to where I am today.Amber Bardon:
Bill, you are pretty well known . I have to tell you every time I'm talking to someone else, and I always have to mention your name and I always stop and say, do you know him? Because a lot of people have heard your name, and the thing that you're really well known for is your vision in collaboration and joint ventures and trying to bring providers together to try to collaborate, inform new entities and provide services and Paris Alliances and output of that. You are one of the owners of the company and the one who came up with the idea for our business model. Today we're gonna be talking about another service and company that you started, and I know it's actually been around for a while , but I think the topic is really pertinent today because staffing is a big challenge. You know, we saw this really crop up during Covid with the Great Resignation. So we're here today to talk about your nurse recruitment program. So to start off with, let's just talk about what is the environment today with staffing and hiring? What are the big challenges you're seeing and how did that drive the creation of the program?Bill Lowe:
The creation of the program actually goes back a ways , Amber. And so we, I guess you could say maybe we had lucky foresight in that we anticipated back in 2005 that there would be a nursing shortage, but we're a small organization as you know, and so we didn't want to just take care of our own needs. Oh , of course, that's always first in , in primary. But also thought that if we were successful with nurse recruitment, that we'd be able to affect other nonprofit organizations by mitigating their, their staffing needs. If we thought we had a problem back then, we didn't know anything, right, because it's just gotten worse and worse. And it wasn't the year of Covid at all that affected us as an organization on our staffing needs. It was after that. I thought that the great resignation was a white collar issue. It's affected right down to our frontline staff for sure. That's been the most frustrating and humiliating development actually, is that we can't find enough CNAs to do the work. After a number of years after starting, we've always been solid with RNs, a hundred percent of them from, from the Philippines. That covered that problem for us, us, but then we did not anticipate a CNA shortage like we have today, and it's more acute for us. And I hear from my peer set that it's also more difficult for most of us to recruit the frontline staff and retain them.Amber Bardon:
So what is the program? Can you do a little bit of a deep dive into how did the program start? What does it do? A little bit more of the details behind it?Bill Lowe:
Yeah. The founder of our program was Rose Poly Cario , who , uh, for many, many years served as our DON and running this program. But , uh, today it's evolved to the , uh, to the point where we're trying to reach more staff from foreign countries and also recruit both RNs and frontline staff, the c n A or caregiver level. The latter is very challenging, but we sort of look back to our history and, and say that I think many organizations would've threw in the towel that point that we kept persevering on the nurse recruitment. It took our first nurses seven and eight years to get to the United States. What we learned is that they were patient, they were still excited to get here, and we learned that we had the patience and the discipline to stay with it. And so we're really glad we did a few years ago. It really took off and we were really proud to have a lot of our workforce shoulder to shoulder with their American-born nurse peers. Uh , during the pandemic really was a relief. We are proud because, you know , we're not reducing the workforce and then deploying them elsewhere. We're actually increasing the workforce from a country whose number one economic engine is sending human resources abroad and then people sending money back home. We've learned that US immigration , uh, can be a challenge. And uh , right now we're under a program called Retro Aggression that the US Immigration Department uses to basically stall immigrants from coming in and they sort of fall into limbo for a period of time before they open up the gates again. And , and that's challenging. What we've tried to do is reach out and just be very creative. I would say at this point I consider it almost a personal, as well as organizational mission for me to find workforces from wherever. However, we've expanded to Liberia and Ghana and Ghana we think will have success bringing in nurses quicker than we will be able to get them from Liberia, but they're both English speaking countries and we're optimistic that, you know, someday have an abundance of those , uh, folks arriving. We've also tried and successfully to assimilate with the Ukrainian immigrants that have come in, and we've been to three different job fairs. Not sure that we're gonna have a whole lot of success out of the box, but we're just gonna stay with it. We become a known commodity and sort of a friend to the Ukrainian immigrants, which is, we're a very mission-based organization, so we're proud of that, but also , uh, trying to help impact the workforce. It's super challenging. I'll , I'll just say that, but we, we go at it every day . New opportunities, even daunting things like, you know, trying to assimilate overabundance of arriving immigrants into our city and all across the country. Uh , I'm being patient with that one because there's just too much politics afoot, but when they decide that they wanna put those people to work, we'll be prepared to serve them and hopefully disseminate those workers across the country to other nonprofit organizations.Amber Bardon:
This program, any community in the country could reach out to you to potentially look at hiring people through this program, is that correct? Correct.Bill Lowe:
It can, and in fact, we have a pretty long waiting list for both , uh, CNAs and RNs. And also today we have close to 120 nurses working across the country at other facilities by rule , we have to be the employer. Then we report them to other nonprofits where , uh, on a full-time three-year contract , uh, agency basis. So when they arrive, you know, the hope is everyone that recruits one of our nurses, the hope is of course, they stay 20 years. That's usually pretty unrealistic. Uh , we've had some people that have stayed longer in our organization, but on average there's no nursing homes in the Philippines. They've worked in hospitals ERs or, and after their service with us, many matriculate into hospitals.Amber Bardon:
Walk me through, what does this look like for a community? So if they work with you and they're able to get a nurse or c n a, what does the process look like? And I also know you have some , um, assimilation tips. OneBill Lowe:
Of the things that we insist upon is that between our organization and their organization, that we provide two months of free housing for the nurses. There's the , the first time they'll , they land at O'Hare, they don't have the resources, so we support and we ask our clients to support them with the housing. The other thing is to make sure that, that they inculcate them properly in into the organization. If they treat them like agency workers, that's not gonna work for morale. So again, hearkening back to dreadful days of covid, you know, if people were doing a hero's bonus for their own staff, we strongly encouraged that. If they wanted to retain Filipino nurses that they, they should treat them and give them the same bonus. Basically they're on our payroll, you know, we would just say , just tell us what you're gonna pay. We'll pass it through without any markup at all, and it's really gonna help for morale and retention. Another factor of the program is it's, we don't separate families. We usually wait , uh, about two months until they're more on their feet, and then we'll bring over a spouse and children. So that's something that was very important to our board to make sure that we weren't, you know, taking nurses from a third world country that needed them to work in our workforce. That the reality is, is they have an overabundance of nurses in the Philippines all eager to work abroad. And so, you know, that that was a moral thing that was, IM important to our board. And of course, not separating families . Super, super important. But as far as the process goes, it starts with a, you know, with a job order and, you know, then we , we maintain and honor that waiting list. We don't know which nurse is going to arrive next or which group of nurses, but when they do, then we introduce them to the organizations. They can Skype or communicate with them however they want. But no one has ever said, we don't want that nurse <laugh>, you know , I think people are just happy to have the cavalry arriving with, you know, with some nurses in to . It's worked out really well. Uh, again, the only drawback is when the US governments to slow the, the flow and it , it , it seems counterintuitive. The politicians aren't really alert to the issue. Do believe that just like we can't grow food in this country without immigrants, I don't think for very much longer we're gonna be able to provide quality healthcare without immigrants arriving to help out.Amber Bardon:
Can you describe how does using a program like this differ from an agency or other types of staffing solutions out there?Bill Lowe:
The one thing that we profess we never want it to be, because it's very difficult work, is to be like a sort of agency that you have a third shift calling and you call us to fulfill that. That's for others to do. And there's, you know, really extreme premiums paid in order to get that emergency staff and they're, they're never familiar with your organization. So you know, you're paying for something that's not necessarily a really good solution. We have vowed to put full-time workers in and mitigate the need for those third shift call in replacements and so on. And to a large extent, we , of course we've mitigated the problem. I have to admit it's a drop in the bucket, but we feel that any movement expanding the workforce is good work.Amber Bardon:
How does this work from a cost perspective? I know you mentioned that they work for your company and they're sort of treated like agency. Can you just explain that? Sure.Bill Lowe:
It's very , uh, simple system and we're very transparent about the approach. So, you know , it starts with a , uh, $1,000 non-refundable deposit to place a job order per nurse. And so frankly, you know, we use those funds to do our recruitment while we're waiting for nurses to arrive. When the nurses arrive, there's an upfront placement fee that binds pay. And then after that, during the three year period, we send an invoice to the client that includes the hours that were paid for that pay period at most, 25% for benefits. And then there's an hourly mark, which can range from like seven 50 to $10 an hour in many cases. We cover the , you know , practice for the nurses, we cover their health insurance. The nurse costs nowhere near like an hour of overtime, which is really great for the staff. So when we started out, we were delivering nurses even less than $40 an hour with our markup included. Today it's mostly above 40, but always generally under 50, unless it's say on the East coast where the market just demands that they make five or $6 more an hour than here in the Midwest. ThanksAmber Bardon:
For explaining that. I think that'll be interesting for our listeners to hear and consider, you know, the impact and the options that are out there to address staffing challenges. I know you mentioned you are currently bringing in nurses and CNAs. What do you see as the future of a program like this? Do you see it growing and you know, starting to work with more countries like you mentioned? Do you see other positions possibly being offered in the future?Bill Lowe:
Yes, it's possible to add other positions. When we first started out, because of the slowness with which nurses could get here, we were providing therapists, physical therapists, and occupational therapists. We actually were a part owner of a therapy company at the time with a dozen other organizations here in the Chicago land area. All of us nonprofits. And so we were basically providing the staff to the company we had a part ownership of. So that felt really good. And you know, we never were a significant part of the workforce, but we always had some percentage of the workforce was provided by our labor. So, and I think you can address that. There's a teacher shortage right now, right? Uh , we tend to believe we'll stay healthcare space and largely the older adult space. But you know, the idea of just speaking back to our motives again, when we make profits off of that, I call that substitute philanthropy. That's like philanthropy, that it's like philanthropy in that those are dollars we can use to support our mission. It's hard, I think it's harder to raise money for, certainly for a long-term care organization than it is to support an organization that supports education or hunger or museums <laugh> . So we, we try to be as resourceful as possible and adding to the pool of funds that can augment the mission. When you have a lot of programs like we do where there's no fees for the service, they have to be supported some way, right? So this helps. I think for others, and I should say anyone can petition just like we did. The tips I would have there is that it takes patience and perseverance. I guess I would encourage anyone who thinks they're gonna be in business 10, 20, 25 years into the future, it would behoove them now to start, you know, either working with an agency like ours, others, or, or doing it themselves, getting an immigration attorney and learning the ropes and just start petitioning. And our track record shows that eventually they will come. And when they do, it's always a joyful thing, you know, for the receiver of those nurses. And we have yet to, you know, the process for CNAs will take longer. We have yet to have our first one arrive, and it's a much smaller pocket of the immigration program that allows CNAs to come over the , the US government prefers higher paid, higher skilled people to come in.Amber Bardon:
Bill, this has been such an interesting conversation. It's, you're doing something so unique and different and you've come up with a really, you know, different approach to a problem that a lot of communities have. So I've really enjoyed having this conversation with you. Is there anything else that you want our listeners to know or you think that they should be aware of about this program or about this concept in general?Bill Lowe:
I would just reiterate that I think people should take advantage of either doing it themselves or working with someone else that that has the same sort of ethic that we do, which is to not exploit the shortage. I have one interesting fact that I'm talking to our insurance agent and belly yanking about that difficulty in finding and retaining CNAs. He brought up a really interesting point. He said that, you know, a few years ago when he attends his, the conferences like in our space, there might be one, you know, at the exhibitor's booths, right? There might be one in the staffing agency. The last time we went, he said there were 17 of 'em . And so we both began to realize is that what's happening in this situation with the shortage is you have , uh, and this is America, right? And we're capitalists, so you can't blame people, but so you have people leveraging the shortage. What they do is they actually shrink the pool of workers by saying, Hey, you know, you don't have to go work for Wesley Place, our skilled nursing facility. You can work for whoever you want to and whenever you want to, you know, and you'll make a couple more dollars an hour, you know , we'll set you up with technology, which I know any of us could do, Amber, and you help people all the time, but you know, you so you can be paid any time you want. That kind of thing. So that can be attractive with younger workforce and the gig economy. And so, but basically what happens is, is they shrink the pool for people that work directly for the employer, they expand the pool of those come at what I would call you, serious rates of hourly rates. And it just, it's just awful. And so the only way to fight that is, is to get in the game yourself with an approach that you know is not exploitative.Amber Bardon:
I think many of our listeners will resonate with that, for sure. Not , not the person . I've heard that sentiment.Bill Lowe:
Yes. Yes.Amber Bardon:
Well, bill, thank you so much. As always, it's always a pleasure to speak with you, and I really appreciate the time you took to talk to us about this topic. ThanksBill Lowe:
For the opportunity, Amber. I enjoyed it.Amber Bardon:
And listeners, if you like this episode, you can find more of our episodes on our website raising tech podcast.com. If you'd like to send us any feedback, you can also do that through our website, parasol alliance.com . And as always, thank you for listening.
In this episode of Raising Tech, our host, Amber Bardon, has a stimulating conversation with Bill Lowe, President & CEO at Chicago Methodist Senior Services (CMSS), about how CMSS' international recruiting program is helping their Senior Living community overcome staffing challenges.
Discover how Chicago Methodist Senior Services' innovative hiring program is allowing CMSS to bring on dedicated and professional caregivers to keep their Senior Living community fully staffed by listening to the full episode!
Raising Tech is powered by Parasol Alliance, The Strategic Planning & Full-Service IT Partner exclusively serving Senior Living Communities.
Welcome back to another episode of Raising Tech podcast. I'm your host, Amber Bardon, and today our guest is Rich Kortum, who is the VP of Strategic Partnerships at KARE. Welcome to the show, Rich.Rich Kortum:
Thanks, Amber. Excited to be on.Amber Bardon:
I am so excited to do this episode. As listeners may know, we have spoken to the c e O of care in the past on a very early episode that we did a while ago, so we thought it was a great time to do a refresh. There's been a lot of changes both in the industry and the staffing experience and in care itself . So really glad to have you here so we can talk about what's going on, what's new. For those listeners who are not familiar with care, to start off with, can you just tell us a little bit about what is care and what are the specific problems you're looking to solve in the industry? CareRich Kortum:
If for Not Familiar, it's a digital labor marketplace that connects pre-qualified caregivers with communities to help with their staffing challenges. What I mean by labor marketplace is that we have tens of thousands of frontline caregivers that are on our platform that are essentially pre-qualified. We'll do all the verification, making sure that they meet state requirements for their licensed position, background checks, drug screening, and they are then eligible and looking for work. So when communities work with care, it's really to help with a lot of the challenges that they face. In the past, when you look from a third party Labor Sense, agencies been kind of a bad a a , there's a bad reputation I guess, over the years. And a lot of what has been done is what led to the foundation of care that I know Charles has shared with your listeners in the past. But just kind of a recap on that. Agencies typically would have lengthy contracts with communities, quality of labor, it sometimes wasn't the greatest. You had no control who was coming into your community and at the end of the day, if you found somebody you liked , you couldn't hire someone without a stiff penalty. And so those are the things that care really wanted to disrupt and change. And so by having this marketplace of nurses, it's giving communities access to thousands of verified caregivers that can come in and work a shift in their community. So communities when they use care, they just post their own shifts to the platform. They say what type of position they're looking for, give a little shift description, and then thousands of caregivers have access to view that shift. They can apply for that shift. Communities can view the profiles of the care heroes that are on the platform, look at ratings and reviews that have been left about them, and ultimately choose who comes to their building. And if you've had a positive experience with someone, you can hire them for free. So communities are using it not only to help with the immediate challenges of being fully staffed at their communities, but they're starting to look at it at a way that, you know, we can provide relief to our current staff from an overtime perspective and not having to burn our staff out, but also recruit new talent to come into your communities.Amber Bardon:
And if anyone who's listening to this podcast has been to any type of conference in the last two years, I know you have seen care there because your marketing strategy is very bold. It's very out there. Everybody's got the matching t-shirts and they usually have bright orange shoes. And there's definitely a real presence that you can feel with care when you're at a conference. But you also have a very bold marketing strategy with the statement staffing agencies suck. <laugh> , I don't know if you're qualified to dive a little bit into , uh, you know, how you guys came up with that marketing strategy and how effective that's been, but what message are you trying to get out when you say things like that?Rich Kortum:
Yes, we have been very obnoxious with our marketing and ifAmber Bardon:
I didn't say that you did <laugh> , it'sRich Kortum:
It's , it's good. We've got a slide that we share that has that on there. It's, it's really come out that way. And when you see something like that, it's, it one catches attention. But we truly want people to understand we're a disruptor to what agencies have done. There's been a lot of challenges. There's been , um, some bad players that have come into the industry, frankly to take advantage of communities from a price gouging standpoint, stealing their staff, you know, and those are things that with care, we truly want to provide communities , uh, a solution that's gonna be able to give them the power and the flexibility to use care when they want however they would like to, and ultimately try to recruit and hire new talent. We encourage communities to do so. Yes, it is a marketing , uh, stance that's really, we, we've kind of been known for it. We're known for for our orange everywhere as I got my orange kicks right back here behind me, shockingly I happen to be in blue today for whatever reason.Amber Bardon:
So one of the things that I really like about care that I always share with our clients is how, and you did kind of briefly mention this when you're giving your overall description, but just to elaborate and make sure people understand this, is that you encourage direct hires to communities and you don't charge any fees. Can you just talk a little bit more in detail about that aspect of the platform?Rich Kortum:
We're encouraging them to go 'cause we know that we've got data that backs a lot of this up that you know, 60% plus of your frontline care staff has some form of secondary job. And our goal is , is to be their secondary job. I mean that second job, they might have minimums on the number of hours specific dates that they have to work. Now they're working and your community Monday morning from eight to four, and then they've gotta go do their second job at five o'clock and head straight to that care gives the caregiver the complete flexibility to make their own schedule, choose where they work when they work. So they might not have to put in that running from one job directly to the next. And so they can find when it's gonna work with their schedule. So even if a community's hiring our people that are on the care platform, there's a strong chance and what we want to do is to continue to grow our, our labor force that's on the care platform to be able to pick up open shifts, utilize it as that secondary job. SoAmber Bardon:
I know you've been talking about the clinical aspect with nursing specifically. What is the approach and future vision for other positions that are notoriously difficult to hire for things like dining and housekeeping? Yeah,Rich Kortum:
It is something that's been a been, you know, kind of a thought during the pandemic in some of our larger markets. You know, we were approached and had some conversations with some large hotel operators and it made sense at that time and we did help with some of that staff that was, you know, furloughed or wasn't working at that particular timeframe. That was at a time where we were really trying to grow care. Care started in 2019 and then six months after the first shift is spill the pandemic hits and it kind of changes things up. But we wanted to get back to what we were really focused on was growing that frontline care staff. And we've grown to a point today where in 38 states there is conversations in terms of do we look at it from different solutions in the caregiver standpoint that we know that communities are telling us that they're short staffed with? Is it dining? Is there conversations to be able to bring dining and hospitality back into this? There's always that opportunity I think, in the future. But with that, there also comes some challenges with that where if you have somebody that's housekeeper, there's endless opportunities that are open for them from restaurants, hotels and and whatnot where if you're a C N A, you know, there's, it's a little bit more, you know , siloed in terms of where you're going to be able to go work to use their your skills. So there is conversation potentially. Is it something that we open up again into the future? We are having not to reveal too much, you know, where there's conversations looking, how can we grow our current services today and can definitely expect something into, into the futureAmber Bardon:
If a community is struggling with staffing. Talk me through how does using Care compare from an R O I perspective to using an agency or direct hire?Rich Kortum:
Agency rates have really kind of expanded. They've come down some from what I've seen, but we don't tell our partners, our clients what they need to set their rates at. You know, we have the same per hour fee that we add on. If they wanna offer $5 an hour or $50 an hour, it's the same flat rate that goes on to that. Now your , your shift might not have filled if you offered $5 an hour. Our goal is to fall somewhere between what you would pay for your own fully burdened full-time employee and overtime. Um , 'cause we know that overtime number is, is something that's extremely costly and I get it, you know, communities will tell us consistent staff is our best staff and therefore we would rather pay overtime have , you know, third party labor that comes in the building. But when you start looking at your overtime expenses, it continues to add up and continue to grow. And so we wanna provide something that's gonna be able to, you know, be uh, competitive with what you are paying from an overtime perspective where your agency rates are typically far much farther over that. So really finding that sweet spot between what you would pay your own fully burdened employee and and overtime , um, you know, to save cost to the community but also provide a relief, a much needed relief and break for your own current team. ThanksAmber Bardon:
For that explanation. I'm sure that's a big question most of our listeners are thinking about as they listen to this episode. Shifting gears a little bit, as we all know, there's been a lot of transition and change in the industry overall in the last few years. Certainly C O V was a huge part of that. Following Covid , obviously the great resignation and a lot of staffing challenges, what is care seeing as far as the major shifts? Like what would you identify as sort of the major trends in staffing and is there anything that you can share as far as your insight in any of the changes that we're gonna continue to see in the next few years?Rich Kortum:
Communities have really started accepting as much as they can, you know, third party labor and where we've seen, there's been a lot of new entrants that have come into the place and everybody's got their own little niche and things that are there. Communities have really learned from this as we look at who our workforce is today and what they are looking for, we've seen a lot of changes on the community front in terms of offering more flexible shifts and maybe, you know, quicker pay. So I think communities are really pivoting and changing as I've heard from folks that they're , you know, staffing challenges are getting better and being able to retain and recruit new folks. But , uh, some of the other changes we've seen over this timeframe is from a legislative standpoint, and I'm not talking from the large minimum staffing ratio, I know this that we'll might get into that, but states are starting to introduce new legislation to provide, you know, a little bit more transparency in terms of what rates , uh, agencies and third party labor are charging, holding them to specific standards that communities are held to today. And you know, for the most part, you know , Kara a hundred percent supports what is going on from a legislative , uh, perspective. Um , states last year that had some stuff passed , I know Pennsylvania had a agency bill that had passed recently. New York has one. I just sat in on a call yesterday, a briefing to discuss it is that's gonna be rolling out Missouri's rolling something out. But primarily because there's been so many new entrants that have come into the staffing place, there's not a good place to be able to identify who are they, you know, and so first phase is really let's have a registry of who is providing third party labor and then two, they want to understand what rates are. There's not a lot of rate caps that are saying you can't charge over this amount, but we are seeing, we want to understand, you know , uh, what you are accepting, but then also what's being paid to the caregiver they want to see. How far off is that from what you know, staff at communities are, are currently making. So we are seeing a lot of changes there cares pivoted to make sure that we're aligning with these to make sure that we're compliant with that. Some of the things are from Caress model being unique from a 10 99 independent contractor perspective, making sure that our partners are protected by have making sure our heroes purchase insurance policies , uh, from malpractice cybersecurity, just crime insurance to make sure that they're protected when they're in the communities. Also offering an E P L I policy to protect communities from harassment or if anything happens within the , within , within the communities. And that's something that we're seeing in a lot of the legislation as well, is to make sure that, you know, communities feel protected when workers are coming in to their buildings to provide, to provide care for the elders.Amber Bardon:
I think that's a really good point is that I feel not just senior living, but the country as a whole is really in this transition period with traditional employee practices changing a lot and shifting to this gig worker economy. And that's obviously just been a huge disruptor in a lot of other industries and sectors and I think it is now hitting senior living and you're a part of that solution. But it is a mindset shift to get communities to think about this differently. Because as you probably know, a lot of communities have really long-term employees that they've had for a long time and that's been their model. So what would you say to providers to help encourage them to think about this new and different way of providing staffingRich Kortum:
Gig economy? It's, it's continuing to pop up. You've seen it in other industries. It's coming in in healthcare. It's , it's been there and in senior care and it's, I don't think it's going away anytime soon. And so it's to be accepting of it and you need to look, especially when you're looking at like a model like care that you can hire for free is , is you have a lot of long-term employees that are at these communities. But the other piece that we're not, that we didn't mention is there is, think of the number of employees that are turning over in that first 30 to 90 days . You know, it's a huge number that is, is not there. And communities that feel I I know everybody's been guilty of it, you make a bad hire, you know, it's been so challenging to get candidates to come in when you do have someone come through, you go ahead and , and make the hire. 'cause you definitely need a body that's on , um, on the floor. And so looking at who you're partnering with from a third party labor standpoint, it's can be your best new recruiting method to be able to see somebody. How do they engage with your current team to make sure there's a cultural fit as we know that's so important, but also how are they engaging with your family members and your residents to make sure it's a fit and it is a fit on both sides , you know, well , not just for the community before the caregiver as well, giving them the ability to kind of try before you buy. I think that there's, that's something that it should be a new method of recruiting for, for communities today if it's not.Amber Bardon:
Yeah, we're definitely going through a lot of change right now in , in so many different aspects and this is just a , a part of that. Is there anything you are at liberty to discuss that is new with care that's coming out that people can look forward to?Rich Kortum:
We will have some things, but some of the changes that we've, that we've made and , and making sure our clients, it's really just to provide a little bit more transparency with the help that were being provided. You're able to see hours that heroes have worked for you. So that way if you're curious to make sure that somebody's not working over X number of hours in a period of time, providing a little more flexibility for communities to see that. Really just continuing to enhance the platform to make it more user friendly for those. And also, you know, we're really kind of pushing and growing our partnerships piece with other vendors and different partners that we can do so that way we can certainly be a resource to be able to, you know, help with other issues that you currently might be having that we can certainly make introductions to our partners, to others that we feel might be a good value add for 'em .Amber Bardon:
Rich, we've covered a lot of topics today. I'm really glad we got a chance to sit down together again. Is there anything else that you think our listeners should know about care before we wrap up?Rich Kortum:
I think one of the things is everybody looks at it just from a providing labor type of standpoint, but I do think one important notice is because we have so many caregivers on our platform, we get the opportunity to ask them questions, not just what's your shift preference and this and that. We ask questions in terms of what motivates you to come to work each day. If you were offered an extra dollar 50 an hour at, you know , the hospitality industry, would you leave? And it's some pretty fascinating data. We get into a lot of stuff on benefits, but then we also ask community leaders these same types of questions and so you can really see where there's alignment, but then also where we might be missing the boat on some of these things. I I encourage folks, you know , check out, you know, our white papers that we do have, but if there's even one piece of advice that I can offer off of this, we learn so much by asking questions and we love to go around and speak on this. I encourage, you know, communities to make sure that you're asking questions to your caregivers. You're gonna learn so much one of the studies that we do have and we start asking, you know, about disrespect and we dove into disrespect a little bit more. And why don't you feel respected? Caregivers are saying, well, you're not listening to my ideas. So if you are going to ask these questions, it's extremely even more important that you do something with it to show that you're taking in consideration what they're saying , uh, to be able to drive improvement for you. And ultimately I think it's something that can lead to your retention rates , uh, but also from helping from a recruitment standpoint because I think your current employees could be some of your best recruiters and if they enjoy where they're working, they're gonna be able to talk well about it out to their friends. IAmber Bardon:
Agree with you a hundred percent on that and I didn't know that you guys had all that data. It's really interesting to know. It's something that I learned today as part of our conversation. Do you share that with all of your clients or is it available with your white papers? Like you said,Rich Kortum:
It's , it's available in white papers that we have on the website. It's, it is something that we will push out. Our marketing team pushes new things out to our partners as it's there. Typically on the website you can go and download any of those white papers that do get published.Amber Bardon:
So speaking of that, how can our listeners find out more about care and who can they reach out to if they'd like to learn moreRich Kortum:
Simply? Our, our website is do you care.com and cares with a k? You go on there, you can certainly, there's, there's a link at the bottom of the page that'll say, subscribe now or you can learn more about care. You can go to the community experience, need the hero form. You can simply complete something and it sends it to our team or we're able to follow up with you. Otherwise, there's also a number on the website.Amber Bardon:
Thank you so much for joining me today. I really enjoyed our conversation.Rich Kortum:
Thank you.Amber Bardon:
And listeners, if you'd like to find more episodes on Raising Tech, you can find them on our website, parasol alliance.com under the resources page. And as always, thank you for listening.
In this episode of Raising Tech, our host, Amber Bardon, has a thought-provoking conversation with Rich Kortum, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for KARE, about how KARE's digital labor platform provides prequalified caregivers to help Senior Living communities overcome staffing challenges.
Discover how KARE is allowing Senior Living communities to decrease overtime, reduce burnout of their current employees and easily hire dedicated frontline employees without paying expensive agency fees. Learn how KARE is providing flexible workplace solutions using a modern twist.
Raising Tech is powered by Parasol Alliance, The Strategic Planning & Full-Service IT Partner exclusively serving Senior Living Communities.
Welcome to Raising Tech. I'm your host Amber Bardon, and today we have a guest I'm really excited to talk to and learn more about what is going on at his company. Ryan Galea, welcome to the show.Ryan Galea:
Awesome, thanks for having me.Amber Bardon:
So, you are the CEO of Icon and for those of you who have not heard of Icon , it is a merger of two companies you probably have heard of, which is VoiceFriend and Caremerge. So, Ryan, let's start there because I know I get asked by a lot of our clients. What is Icon ? What does the merger mean? Can you just dive into that a little bit?Ryan Galea:
Yeah, absolutely. So Icon is the combination of the Caremerge Engagement platform and VoiceFriend. The business is truly focused on engagement and communication in the senior living space. The Caremerge brand now has been spun out into a separate platform that's focused on the clinical market. So specifically the EMR and EHR side of things. I think that, you know, the separation with a dedicated best of breed engagement platform now that can go head to head with some of the other solutions on the market and kind of reduces some of the market confusion that I think Caremerge was having as a business before coming from also being in the clinical space.Amber Bardon:
So Ryan, tell me a little bit more about your involvement. How did you come to the industry? How did you come to Icon ? Were you working for Caremerge or VoiceFriend or what's your involvement and how did you move into your role?Ryan Galea:
Absolutely. So my background is on the investing side of things. I worked in healthcare and tech investing for a number of years and so when I wanted to go out and do something entrepreneurial, given my background, it made a lot more sense to start where I was strong, which was going out and actually acquiring companies and bringing them together versus starting something from scratch. So in 2021, I launched a fund with the goal of going out and consolidating some of the fragmented technology in the senior care space. First acquisition we did was a company called VoiceFriend, which is a communication platform in 2021, and then we followed that up last year, 2022 with the acquisition of the Caremerge Engagement platform. And then in September of last year we merged the business together and rebranded them under the Icon brand really with the mission of really innovating the senior experience within senior living, providing tools to engage, inform and unite all stakeholders within that ecosystem more or less.Amber Bardon:
And I'm just curious, what was your interest in getting into the senior living space? It's a pretty unique space and a little bit of a niche space.Ryan Galea:
Yeah, no, it's a great question. It was a combination of two things. So I was working on Wall Street, probably was going to be there my whole life. I was enjoying it. But then my grandmother gotten sick and she had been sick for a number of years. She was actually in in Canada. But you know, the Canadian senior living system or senior care system faces a lot of the same challenges we have here. And I just saw firsthand due to the labor challenges that she just didn't get the care I think she deserved during those last few years of her life. Didn't make things worse, didn't accelerate her condition in any way , but just made that experience not as pleasant as it I think it otherwise could have been. And you know, I remember one of my conversations with her during that time and you know she was telling me about her stage advice was to life's too short. You've got to take advantage of the time you have, you don't want to have any regrets. So that really resonated with me. And so the combination of those two things led me to make the decisions, to leave what I was doing to do something more entrepreneurial. I always wanted to have an impact and felt that I would be regretful if I didn't do that in my life. And then given her experience, I thought what better than to try to get involved in improving senior care and that experience for other seniors like my grandmother. So it was like a combination of those two things and left and quit my job and started from scratch in 2021 on this new pursuit.Amber Bardon:
I was curious if you had a personal tie because actually we have a lot of entrepreneurs who come on this podcast who have gotten into this space because of a similar personal story. So I was curious if you had a personal story behind that and you do. Yeah , so for those people out there who are familiar with Caremerge, which I think Caremerge to me is kind of the leading known resident engagement app . So when I'm talking to my clients and I mention a resident engagement app and they're not sure what that is and I say, "oh, like Caremerge?" They usually know what I'm talking about. So one of the questions I've had a lot of our clients ask is what does this mean for Caremerge? Are things changing? Do they have to worry about differences? Is this going to enhance the service offering? Can you talk about that a little bit? And then one other additional question along with that is will there be an integration with VoiceFriend or what does that look like?Ryan Galea:
Yeah, absolutely. The primary goal of the merger, the rebrand, and what I'm trying to build with, you know, the investment fund I raised is to really reimagine the platform and take it to the next level we want to be and continue to be as Caremerge. I think had done very successfully, you know, be a symbol of innovation in this industry. And so whereas Caremerge is an engagement platform, we think the next natural step is what we call experience management. So we don't want to only give you the tools to engage your audience, but also the ability to measure what impact that engagement's having and then give you the insights into what you can do to actually improve that experience even further. And so we're investing very heavily in the platform with a lot of exciting stuff. I'm sure we'll talk about coming out later in this year, but really what the goal of giving you everything you need to offer your seniors an amazing experience, or as my marketing department likes to say, making the aging experience iconic. I think if you look at a lot of other consumer brands and senior living is really, it's a consumer product in a sense. You know , a lot of brands focus a lot of brand loyalty, brand reputation, you know , think of Apple, Lululemon talking about your dog, two dogs, myself and Chewy is a great example of an amazing consumer brand. They send us a letter, a handwritten letter every year on our dog's birthday, which is just a great touch. And you haven't seen that that much in senior living yet, but I think it's a natural progression as you know, the market gets more competitive and kind of matures. And so we want to give you what you need to kind of build that brand experience, that brand loyalty and kind of make a fanatical experience where people love your brand and not only the family members, but also the staff.Amber Bardon:
Can I ask you, when you're talking about that experience, do you have in mind the actual residents or their providers or both?Ryan Galea:
Yeah, so the way we think about it is to offer an amazing experience to the resident. Like there are a North Star at the end of the day, but every stakeholder involved is gonna filter up that experience. So if you don't have a happy staff member, for example, happy caregiver, there's no way you can give a good experience to the senior. So we're focused on the experience of every stakeholder. So whether it's the resident, the staff, their family members, providers, whatever it is, all those groups and giving you what you need to make sure that they're satisfied so that that senior has a good experience. You know, going back to my grandmother, it was really because the staff was not great work environment. They didn't really care as much as they could have if the company invested in making them happy and giving them that experience. So we think about it really holistically.Amber Bardon:
That's interesting. I was trying to imagine how that customized piece of that experience branding would work from all those different stakeholders.Ryan Galea:
Yeah , there's a lot of nuance to it, but ultimately if there's two things you're trying to do, attract and retain, whether it's staff, whether it's residents, whatever it is, those are the two things you're trying to do and the tactics to do that tend to be very similarAmber Bardon:
For those who are not familiar with Caremerge (and there might be some listeners out there), can you give us a high level overview of what it does? Because I know there's the resident engagement piece, which is really well known , but there's also an EMR platform side of it. So can you talk a little bit about that?Ryan Galea:
Yeah, the EMR platform, which is now what Caremerge, going forward what Caremerge is, and Icon is integrated with that platform still, and so we still have a very tight integration between the two, but Caremerge as is today now is a traditional medication management, electronic health record platform that's used by caregiving staff to manage the care of the residents within the community. So very focused, very much on the clinical side. So we want people, Caremerge is clinical now and Icon is engagement, and so that's really the distinction between the two. So, in terms of the engagement pieces that came with Caremerge, they had kind of a life enrichment program calendar management piece to it. So, everything you need to really manage your wellness and life enrichment programming. So tracking attendance, you know , participation, whatever it is. Resident portal , as you mentioned, the hub if you will, for all resident needs that they can access via a smart device. There's a family facing version of that as well, which is typically very useful in a higher acuity setting where the resident isn't going to be as engaged on the app, and then we have all different channels of communicating and sharing information. So whether that's interim tv, public signage, Amazon Alexa devices, whatever it is, any touchpoint you need to communicate and engage with your resident.Amber Bardon:
One of the big trends that I see with our clients, and especially when we're working on new construction projects is wanting to have integration across multiple types of platforms with an ultimate focus on life safety and wellness for residents. So I think, and I've said on this podcast before that we're not too far off from a point in time in which a potential family member or resident will ask the community questions like, "what technology do you have in place to keep me safe? How will you know if I fall, how are you going to make sure I get up in the morning?," and so that ties in a lot of different types of systems from emergency call systems to engagement systems, you know, to things like what VoiceFriend is doing . So how do you envision Icon approaching that and being a solution oriented product for those types of situations?Ryan Galea:
Yeah, I think the big thing about it, and you kind of touched on it, is there is a lot of different approaches you need to have in the cookbook to be successful. I think just by nature of the type of resident you're working with, what's gonna be effective in safety, wellness, whatever it is, is gonna be a little bit different, and that's why we have really gone all in on being omnichannel and that was the big part of bringing on the VoiceFriend part of the suite. VoiceFriend's always been very strong in what I would call more legacy communication. So you know, voice calls and text messages and so VoiceFriend can be used for phone-based safety and wellness check-ins, whereas the camera suite can be used for Alexa-based wellness and safety check-ins. And I think the next natural step is actually now integrating that with the PERS nurse call systems, which hasn't been done really yet, but I think it's kind of the natural next step is to bring that really full circle and have the last piece of communication that we're not touching yet.Amber Bardon:
Yeah, and there's such an interesting opportunity in independent living and a little bit more in the assisted living because a lot of this technology has been focused more in the skilled application, but as we know, skilled is becoming less and less important to a lot of communities with more of a focus on the IL side. And I think a lot of communities have not typically thought of providing these types of services to IL because by definition they're independent. But if you can do it in a really unobtrusive way and in a way that can make them have like a peace of mind without feeling that they're being monitored, it's interesting to think about what the possibilities. And along those lines, I wanna touch on one other type of technology, which is smart homes. So, I know a lot of the resident engagement apps out there don't touch smart homes, and I spoke to Nancy, a long time ago, when she was the CEO of Caremerge, and she had kind of mentioned that that wasn't the direction that the company was going, but I know that's been a couple years and I do see a big need for that sort of holistic app to control all these different components. So I'm just curious, do you have any plans or anything you can share around any smart home type functions or integrations?Ryan Galea:
Yeah, so I think it is on the ladder . So we want to be the hub and the way, and which is why I think Caremerge is really attractive. When I was looking at what to use as the foundation of the platform we're looking to build is that, you know, there were very data forward and it was really easy for them to integrate with pretty much anything you can think of. And so I think there's some phenomenal companies out there in the consumer sector that are building the best smart home technology already. I mean Amazon is doing a ton of stuff there and we're never going to be able to build the smart home tech that Amazon can build, but we can leverage it in this setting. And so by nature of our platform, having the easy ability to integrate, we'll be able to integrate with all off-these-shelf smarthome products that are getting to be pretty solid at this point. And so allow you to leverage consumer -grade products in this setting and be able to integrate that data with your whole holistic resident experience platform.Amber Bardon:
Oh , that sounds really exciting. Is there anything else you want our listeners to know about Icon or anything going on with the company or information you want to share?Ryan Galea:
Yeah, I think I'll share that at its core Icon, we're trying to be more than just the collection technologies . We're trying to be the testament to the power of what you can do by creating a seamless and remarkable ecosystem, if you will, in senior living. So we're not just trying to give you technology, we're not trying to solve problems, we're trying to really shape and experience and foster, inspire, connect everybody in that ecosystem, building that digital bridge to ultimately do that. I want everyone to note that the last year we spent really building that foundation, integrating VoiceFriend with the Icon product and setting us up for success, but we're not resting on our laurels, and we are innovating very aggressively now and I think we are gonna be making some pretty dramatic leaps over the next six to 12 months, and I think coming up in Q4, you're going to see for the first time some of these really interesting, exciting things and it'll give a great preview into the direction that we're heading. This market's ever changing, technology's ever changing and we want to be at the front of it.Amber Bardon:
Where can our listeners find more information about Icon ? Where can they stay up to date on all these exciting innovations coming out in the next few months?Ryan Galea:
Absolutely! GoIcon .com is a great place to check out . We post a lot of content that kind of foreshadows what's coming out if we haven't publicly talked about it yet. I try to do a monthly webinar that listeners can tune into where I'll share a bit about what we're building, preview some of the tech. We did a great one on AI last month where I previewed, we integrated ChatGPT into the VoiceFriend product, and so I gave you a little sneak peek into what that might look like. And then also feel free to follow me on LinkedIn, I try to write a blog post for two every couple weeks about what I'm seeing, what we're thinking about doing next.Amber Bardon:
Fantastic! Well, thank you so much for joining me today. I certainly learned a lot and had a lot of my questions about the merger answered .Ryan Galea:
Absolutely. Thanks so much for having me!Amber Bardon:
And listeners, if you would like to provide feedback on this episode or if you have ideas for future episodes, you can find us online at www.ParasolAlliance.com, and then go to our Resources page and then click podcast. Thank you for listening!
In this episode of Raising Tech, our host, Amber Bardon, has a captivating conversation with Ryan Galea, CEO of Icon, where he illustrates how Icon's all-in-one engagement platform is enhancing communication and boosting resident & family engagement
at Senior Living communities.
Formerly CareMerge and VoiceFriends, Icon gives your Senior Living community the tools to communicate and engage with your entire community including residents, families, and staff efficiently and effectively on a HIPAA-compliant platform. Discover how Icon can help reduce overtime at Senior Living communities by up to 10% and learn more about the benefits of using Icon by listening to the entire episode.
Welcome back to Raising Tech, a podcast about all things technology and senior living. Today I am your host, Patrick Leonard. And we're gonna talk about critical topic of communication in senior living communities today. And I won't go too far into it because we have an awesome guest today, Katherine Wells from Serenity that I wanna welcome to the show. Katherine, welcome.Katherine Wells:
Thank you. I'm super excited to be here.Patrick Leonard:
We're super excited to have you. We've had over the last few months, but always have enjoyed our conversations and really passionate about what you all do and our provide specifically as it relates to the senior living space. So I'm excited to dive into this topic further with you today. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, would you mind just starting things off by giving our listeners a little bit of background about yourself and about Serenity?Katherine Wells:
Absolutely. So I spent my entire career in the IT world. I marketed and sold and product managed software for IT departments and software engineers. And about 2010 my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's-like dementia. And as she started to progress in that disease and we eventually moved her into memory care, I stepped into the role of primary family communication coordinator. So I was the person communicating with all the different people providing care. And then as my dad moved into assisted living not long after that number grew pretty extensively and it was very difficult to manage. In fact, I did it on spreadsheet and had 37 different providers I was communicating with about my parents' care and they weren't really talking to each other and they weren't really talking to me. And so I knew that was a problem for me, but I also knew I could solve the problem if the industry wanted to solve it. So I went out and did 300 interviews. I shadowed for three months. I lived in my mom's memory care for nine days. And I saw that the people in this industry are absolute heroes. They give up their life for the care that they're providing and they want to do a better job of communicating and coordinating care and being in lockstep with all the other people providing care. They just didn't have a way. So we created Serenity. Wow,Patrick Leonard:
What an amazing story! Thanks for sharing that with us. It's always so cool to hear from founders on their founding story about why they got into this crazy but amazing world of senior living and particularly on the senior living technology side. There's just so many nuances and so many creative and innovative things coming out all the time, especially over the last five years or so. So I'm always so curious how people got into it. And your story is, is certainly a powerful and meaningful one, one that's near and dear to your heart. So thank you for sharing that.Katherine Wells:
Yeah, it is. If you really look at it from the senior living perspective, the primary family coordinator or could be power of attorney or could just be the primary family member that you're communicating with, is really ultimately the economic buyer. And not everybody thinks about it that way, but the idea that they are an economic buyer, whether they're actually writing the check themselves out of their own checkbook or writing one out of their parents' checkbook, they might also just be sitting on their parents' shoulder and saying, I need you to move to this community because they'll communicate with me or because I vetted them already, I know all the behind the scenes and or they're closer to me because let's face it, location is super important in addition to the care.Patrick Leonard:
Yeah, absolutely. There's so many factors that go into it. And with that, what you created sounds like there's multiple problems or opportunities you're looking to solve with what you've created with Serenity. So can you just dive a little bit deeper into that you saw this opportunity based on your own experience and can you talk a little bit more about how you're hoping to address those or are addressing that with Serenity? 'cause as you mentioned, there's a lot of different stakeholders involved here. So I think that looks a little different for each member of that kind of circle, if you will , involved in this process. So if you dive a little bit deeper into that and just kind of explain how it all works.Katherine Wells:
Yeah, and it's a great question because there are a lot of people involved and that is where those care transitions, the communication between providers, it's where things drop and and it's what we wanna remove the friction from. So we wanna make it very simple and easy for communication to take place. So think of Serenity as a platform of communication as well as a network. So on this platform of communication, our goal is to remove the friction from the entire senior care journey for everyone. So I had 37 different people I was communicating with. Some people might only have five, some people might have one. It kind of depends. There could be a lot of people, there could be a few people, there could be home health involved, there could be home care involved, there could be hospice involved, there could be a doctor, they call them house call doctors. So on this platform we allow everyone to communicate with each other and that can include the family as well as all the various people. That also includes the care recipient, who is the person receiving the care. So we initially started with just a messaging platform that's HIPAA compliant, that allowed a senior living community to communicate with family. A lot of people are trying to solve that problem. So we knew, okay, this is great 'cause a lot of people are trying to solve this problem. We're not the only ones. So how do we differentiate and what additional value do we bring to the table? I was not in the senior living space until 20 17, 20 18. So I certainly don't wanna come in and say, I know everything. I can fix all your problems. I spent a lot of time in the field learning what they're doing, watching what they're doing, watching where help was needed. And then Covid of course showed us that loneliness and isolation kills people that when we have a staffing shortage, we're in big trouble and we've come out of Covid with a huge massive staffing shortage. So how can we help optimize the time for the caregivers? So I look at Serenity as the people behind the scenes who are helping with processes and procedures and optimizing time for staff so that we can automate what a machine can do, leaving humans availability to do what humans are uniquely designed to do. And that's provide the care. So we also have the messaging component. We also have workflows and e-forms and e-signature. We have Alexa for senior living, which allows us to have an in-room concierge for older adults in senior living. And that allows them to be more independent. They have the ability to make video calls with their families, they can call each other. We have this adorable couple in one community who one lives in assisted living, one, one lives in memory care and they'll have a care partner in the memory care help that one get on the Alexa and video chat with her husband. And it's just the most amazing, sweetest thing because even though they're in the same community, they're pretty far apart and he has to go outside to visit her. So just closing that gap for people so that everybody knows what's happening and it's fully transparent. And I think that's one of the things when you have a staffing shortage, you have a lot of people providing care for an older adult, sharing the care of that older adult, keeping all of those people in lockstep with each other is really hard. And that's the the problem that we've tackled.Patrick Leonard:
Absolutely. Well that's awesome. And so that makes a lot of sense and I love you sharing this story about the residents and their loved one kind of connecting and how your platforms empower that. That's the stories that you always love to hear with solutions like this. So I think you're right when you said earlier there are a handful of people out there who are trying to kind of solve the messaging and communication side of it between the residents and the staff family members. I think something that was unique when I think when we started talking in addition to all that was how the providers are involved in this as well. For me personally, I'm more curious about this because I'm not as familiar with how that process is all tied in. So I'd be curious to learn more about that and what that looks like and how the providers are tied into this. How reliance are you on their participation in the platform and you know, what does that felt like and seem like for the the family members, the staff and the rest ?Katherine Wells:
That is one of our unique features is that ability to connect providers in . So what most people do not know is that senior living was never designed to be a medical model. It was designed to be a social model to provide the very basic levels of care, especially assisted living, the assistance with the activities of daily living and maybe some medication management. So what has happened, because the acuity of residents has increased since assisted living first became a thing, the community itself has a medical person on staff and that's a director of nursing. And that director of nursing is not really there to provide this medical care. They're there to oversee the medication dispensing and management and coordinate with all of the people that they curate around them to provide that medical care. And that includes home health and hospice and physical therapy, occupational therapy, rounding, doctors, long-term care pharmacy. So they have all this communication with three. So they're supposed to have options for families to select from. So imagine they're working with two or three different hospice providers and two or three different home health providers and one long-term care pharmacy, probably one, maybe two house call doctors who are coming in and servicing. That gets to be unwieldy pretty quickly to stay on top of all of that communication. So what we do is we create a shared communication channel that allows that director of nursing to communicate directly with the folks at each one of those different organizations. So they'll basically have a list, a list of communication channels, one for each of those providers and they have one place to go and they can communicate with all of them. So communication between the providers is anything that today they would call each other for, in some cases they'll text each other, not HIPAA compliant, not secure. So they have to be aware. It's also not transparent. So it's communication between them. If it happened to be a group text thread, let's say one of those people leaves the organization, they're still on that thread. You can't get rid of it. Serenity just takes all of that away and puts it into a nice, easy, organized way to communicate. And it allows you to put people into that channel and pull people out as you need to without giving personal phone numbers either. So that it's very simple to keep everybody in touch, but without giving out personal data, the communication that takes place there can be anywhere from, Hey, we're running late today. We'll be there in 45 minutes to, I am gonna see Miss Martha in room 25 0 1 today. I heard that she had a fall last night. Do you have any additional information for me or how is she doing today? So that might be something that the rounding doctor would message to the director of nursing. The long-term care pharmacy, we actually have a long-term care pharmacy that uses Serenity as it is main form of communication with the Director of Nursing. And it has eliminated the fax machine, completely eliminated it so they can just share scripts and doctor's orders and to even take a photo of a medicine or a cream and post it and say, we need a refill of this for this patient. All of that goes through Serenity and it makes it all transparent and right there in the platform so that everybody knows what's happening. You know, one common scenario is an older adult falls and has to be taken to the er, the rounding doctor or maybe occupational therapist is coming to see that person the next day at the community. So the director of nursing can just post Ms . Martha was sent to the ER last night. That allows the provider who was gonna see them to say, okay, I can take her off my schedule, I'll follow up with her after she gets back from the hospital and maybe she doesn't even have to go to the community that day.Patrick Leonard:
So thanks for painting the picture of what those types of communications look like. So correct me if I'm wrong and I'm oversimplifying this, I apologize, but for all that makes sense in my mind, I'm envisioning almost the unification of something like a Slack for my internal communication with my team here at work with my healthcare provider's portal where I had messaged back and forth with the nurses and medical records. I'm imagining all these things kind of being unified and brought together in a central location where all the necessary party with one login , I can communicate with all these necessary parties. Am I articulating that and digesting that correctly or is there something I missed? ThereKatherine Wells:
You are . You are everyone in one place communicating and collaborating and educating and following workflows. And that's really important because that's what saves the staff time. And they don't have to think about it because it's in an automated workflow. So they can manage the process of medication management very simply. They can onboard a new resident, they can send out a referral to a hospice provider, for example. So everyone in one place. And the interesting thing here is I used Slack long before I moved into the senior care space, but people in the senior care space don't know what Slack is a lot of times. So it's like explaining Slack in even a more robust way. It's really robust Slack, but specifically designed for this space for senior care. So we're fully HIPAA compliant. Could you use Slack? You probably could, but you'd have to use the HIPAA compliant version, which is ultra expensive because they charge by user and you have to have a minimum of a thousand users on there and you couldn't just quickly add families and other people into the platform. So we're designed to be used on the go. We're very, very simple to use so that anyone at any level of technical expertise is able to use the platform.Patrick Leonard:
That's amazing. So what does the engagement look like from your experience across the different stakeholders that you mentioned? I imagine it looks a little different from residents versus staff versus the providers involved, the family members. How are they all responding? Are there any specific kind of use cases you can point to that helps paint a picture around how they're kind of engaging with this and and really digesting it and utilizing it to make all their lives easier?Katherine Wells:
Yeah, I can tell you for families, we have clients, we have senior living providers who have told us that people move into their community because of the way they'll communicate via Serenity. So it's basically in a very, very simplistic way. You could also think about Serenity as an app for that community. The family gets a login provided by the community, they log in, they can see all the activities, they can see the menu, and then they have this private channel of communication that is just about their loved one. And they can ask how's Mom's depend supply? That was the bane of my existence for my mom. I never knew how many she had left until it was too late and they were down to zero and they needed me to come right now and bring some more right <laugh> . So that kind of communication with family builds trust and it makes it super easy for family. I mean, you know, family members, let's face it, they're Gen Z, they're millennials, they're Gen X, like me. And we expect technology. I fully expect somebody to communicate with me this way. I don't want to pick up the phone and dial a phone number and wait for someone to answer to be put on hold and be transferred around and then have to leave a message and maybe get a phone call back in three days. So from the family side, it gives them a window into the care of their loved one that they don't have right now. The family side's, the easy side, the providers so that the senior living staff, when they log in, they have communication channels that they've been assigned to. So there'll be an all staff channel, there'll be an education channel, there'll be a channel about announcements from the community. So that internal communication. So they aren't necessarily all gonna be communicating with family. So they wouldn't have communication channels with all the family members, but they would have their internal communication and that keeps everybody in the community in lockstep. And then for the third party providers who are coming in, they would log in and they would actually see all the different senior living communities they deal with. So for them, the benefit is they log into Serenity and they say, okay, I'm going to the gardens at St . Elizabeth today, so I'm gonna go to that channel and see what's been going on, and I'm gonna tell them I'll be there at 10 and any sort of updates I need to share or anything that might be happening with one of their residents. And then they'll have another channel with Community A and Community B and community C. So they can just keep going down that list. And they have full direct communication with each of the directors of nursing at the multiple senior livings they service.Patrick Leonard:
That makes a lot of sense. Thanks for walking through the different kind of stakeholders and how they engage at a high level. It makes me think of another question as we're talking about this and bringing so many things together in one unified platform, is there still a need to integrate with some of of the other systems that the community might be using? For example, EHR system, or if the use of Serenity even starts as early as a sales process, is it something that's integrating and communicating with the CRM? So can you talk a little bit about that, about the interconnectivity with other platforms that might be powering the operations of the community?Katherine Wells:
Yeah, we have an open a p I , so we'll integrate with anyone because we come from the tech world. We know that building applications that integrate is super important in this industry. We lovingly call it app Jenga in the senior living industry. It is like app Jenga for the poor communities who are trying to keep up with all these different apps that they have and who does what. And there's a little bit of crossover here or there. So I think that's normal when an industry is undergoing a digital transformation because prior to 2018 there was not a lot of tech in senior care and still we're replacing very manual processes in a lot of our clients. So integration is super important. We have an open a p i, we don't want to be the source of record, we are the source of continuity of communication across everybody. So each one of those platforms like the EHR--they're an inch wide and a mile deep. That's great. We don't wanna be a mile deep. We're a mile wide and an inch deep across all of them, bringing them together. It does start at the sales cycle. And every one of my clients will tell you that that's one of the first things they show is here's how we're gonna communicate with you . Family too often has been told, we're gonna over communicate, we're gonna over communicate, and then they move mom in and they don't get any communication. So they've been burned. So they're really looking for that. And it has been a driver for people to move into certain communities. The piece that I left out from the user experience is the resident user experience. And that brings us to our Alexa for senior living, which is in a closed , secure network. It's a commercial deployment. Think of it like in a hotel, when you walk into a hotel, there's a TV there, it's already programmed, it has your favorite music playing or it has some music playing, it has a TV channels, et cetera. So that's a commercial deployment where all of the content is controlled by the hotel. Same thing with these Alexa devices. They're the video devices, the Alexa show devices and they sit in the resident's room and they constantly are sort of rotating gently information about what's coming up for dinner, what's coming up on the activities. That's where they can say, Alexa, call my daughter. Alexa call for help. So it's a great backup to a nurse call system because I don't know about you, but my dad never conveniently fell right next to a pole cord . And he refused to wear his little pendant around his neck or on his wrist because it made him feel old. But anywhere he fell, he could say, Alexa call for help. So the Alexa show device, it also allows them to check in if they're independent living, they can just say, Alexa, I'm checking in this morning. Done. They don't have to go outside and you know, flip something around where someone on the staff has to go run around and check and make sure everybody's thing is flipped and that means they're doing okay and they're up and moving. So we just automate all of those things and reduce the staff time and make it so easy for the older adults because it truly becomes a bit of a friend for them. And that's the interaction that they have. That's the user experience that they have.Patrick Leonard:
Awesome. Thanks for walking us through the resident experience. At the end of the day, that's kind of the most important. It all ties into it what the staff's doing, of course, so important to providers, but at the end of the day, those two parties are all after, you know, making the residents life easier and the family members. So that was a great use case and the power that Alexa can bring combined with your platform. So. Well this has been an amazing discussion, Katherine. I've learned a lot. I know our listeners are gonna learn a lot. But before we wrap up, is there anything else that you're dying to let listeners know, either about Serenity, where it's at today, or even what's coming next in this realm of communication?Katherine Wells:
Yeah, I think communication is the foundation of everything. And it's a process. It's not an event. It's not something you do once a month when you send out a newsletter. That's not how communication works. And building trust is the most important thing that you can do for your margin. That means your top line and your bottom line. And I would just say, look at all the different communication systems that you might have in-house. You have email, you have phones, you have your nurse call system, you have fax machines. People are texting, whether you tell them not to, doesn't matter, they're texting, I promise you. And none of that is transparent and none of it is within your ability to see what's happening in your own community. So I would just encourage people to look for how can you create a unified platform for all communication across the board and make life so easy for your staff. Serenity pays for itself and less than six months, make life easy for your staff and they'll be able to provide better care for your residents.Patrick Leonard:
I love that. And on a great note. Well, Katherine, thanks again for taking the time today to educate our listeners and myself on this topic. Listeners, I hope this was helpful. Please go check out Serenity online or reach out to Katherine directly to learn more because this is a very powerful solution for the senior living community and the industry at large. And listeners, once again, thanks for tuning in to another episode of Raising Tech. If you have any feedback or if you have an idea for a topic or you wanna be on an episode yourself, please feel free to reach out www.ParasolAlliance.com. Have a good one!
In this episode of Raising Tech, our host, Patrick Leonard, has a thought-provoking conversation with Serenity’s CEO, Katherine Wells, about how Serenity’s HIPAA-compliant communication platform and network connect Senior Living communities’ staff, residents and their families.
Serenity’s single conversation platform allows everyone included in the residents’ everyday life to communicate in one place. Discover how Serenity’s communication solution removes the friction from everyone included in residents’ Senior Living journeys.
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