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These senior care brands invest heavily in R&D


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When Home Instead Senior Care researched why older adults are admitted, and often times readmitted, to the hospital within the first 30 days following their initial discharge, medication mismanagement was a key finding that rose to the top.

The Omaha-based company discovered that seniors on average take six to eight medications daily. But sticking to a regimen can be confusing for the senior and family caregivers, says Mary Alexander, Home Instead’s vice president of strategic partnerships and healthcare integration.

To fix the problem, Home Instead started Simple Meds, a full-service pharmacy program. Its services include organizing medications and labeling when they should be taken. Pharmacists review each medications and staff works with patients, caregivers and doctors to ensure medications are used properly.

Between research and start-up costs, Alexander says nearly $5 million was spent on Simple Meds over the last two years. It was endorsed by Paul Hogan, Home Instead’s founder and chairman, who believes the service will protect seniors and reduce the chances for a medication mishap.

It’s also a prime example of senior-services franchises investing heavily in research and development, in several cases going far beyond their competitors in part to gain an edge.

Simple Meds services are in more than 400 franchise offices across 40 states and will be available in over 650 offices in all 50 states by the end of the year. Alexander says more than 40 percent of seniors who move to nursing homes do so because they can no longer manage their medications. Simple Meds is helping Home Instead maintain longer relationships with current clients. Franchisees can offer the service for free.

Anthony Crews, director of research at FRANdata, says the Arlington, Virginia-based franchise-focused research and consulting firm is seeing a population that is living longer and having fewer children. So those children are embracing alternative means to take care of multiple senior family members, Crews added. Senior in-home care firms are benefiting from technological development generally, making capabilities that once only existed in hospitals available at the fingertips of practitioners.

“The market is highly fragmented—the 50 largest companies account for only 25 percent of total revenues—so brands have to stay innovative to stand out from competitors,” Crews says.

Senior Helpers has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent years to research, develop and launch programs that have proven to be critical to the Towson, Maryland-based company’s success.

It teamed with Teepa Snow, one of the nation’s leading Alzheimer’s experts, to launch Senior Gems. It trains caregivers how to assess and understand the level of dementia a senior is experiencing and provide care based on that level. Plus, Senior Helpers created resources that help caregivers understand the specific needs and care for seniors living with Parkinson’s disease. Nearly 75 percent of all franchise offices, or 175 offices nationally, have been trained. Another 50 offices are expected to be trained by the end of this year.

This approach to training has helped differentiate Senior Helpers from the competition, which is often merely providing companionship and personal care, says Chris Buitron, vice president of marketing at Senior Helpers.

Right at Home, also based in Omaha, is working with researchers from Harvard Medical School’s Department of Health Care Policy and ClearCare to better monitor clients to improve at-home senior healthcare. The program will test a new, large-scale, randomized intervention aimed at preventing hospitalizations, improving health outcomes and lowering Medicare spending among private-pay home-care recipients. ClearCare is the provider of operational software for Right at Home’s franchise system.

If subtle changes in patients remain undetected, they frequently escalate into costly hospitalizations, says Brian Petranick, Right at Home’s CEO. He says the Harvard In-Home Program can achieve a “win-win” of improving outcomes while lowering healthcare spending for the home-care population. Over a three-year period, the study will aim to collect data on 20,000 seniors from more than 410 Right at Home locations across the United States. The program has been implemented in a limited number of locations and will systematically go into all locations between now and 2017.

Petranick says the study provides franchisees with tools and protocol to identify risks and concerns seniors are experiencing earlier in the care cycle. By keeping clients healthy and improving their quality of life, Right at Home hopes to keep serving them for a longer period of time.

Financially, Petranick is passionate about the effort too. Right at Home corporate is investing $150,000 to $250,000 annually to support the program. Franchisees are required to have all office staff and caregivers complete mandatory online training. In total, including labor and marketing collateral, the average franchisee is spending an estimated $5,000 a year.

Petranick hopes his brand’s effort will prompt other leaders to become innovative in the homecare space. Further, he wants to see his company’s actions “help bend the cost curve down in the healthcare costs consumers pay, so more care is pushed out into the home.”

Led by a neuropsychologist, Home Care Assistance’s scientific division developed the Cognitive Therapeutics Method. The activity-based program is designed to prevent the onset of new forms of cognitive decline. It also slows the progression of existing symptoms for individuals already experiencing cognitive impairment.

The findings came after the Palo Alto, California-based non-medical, in-home care company saw a need for a proactive and preventative program that addresses brain health.

“Given that 50 percent of our clients have some form of dementia, and those suffering from some form of dementia will triple by 2050, we saw a real need to develop this type of program,” says Kathryn Zakskorn, the company’s director of franchise marketing. Further, the firm’s founders and husband and wife, Drs. Jim and Kathy Johnson, both have clinical psychology backgrounds and have been rigorous about being science and data-oriented. The program is being offered at all of the company’s 100-plus locations across North America and Australia.

No figures were disclosed on how much is being invested into the program. But Zakskorn says the CTM research team spent over a year conducting an extensive scientific literature review on non-pharmacological approaches to improve brain function and developing activities for this patent-pending program before accepting the first client.

“With a mission to change the way the world ages, we will continue to develop innovative programs to enhance the lives of our clients and the greater community,” Zakskorn says.

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