By Jack Cumming

One of the slowly developing initiatives over recent years promises new life for struggling senior living operations. That is the emergence of onsite medical clinics as a means toward replacing the reactive medicine of doctors’ office visits with relationship medicine, which can result in better outcomes at lower costs and with greater convenience.

The clinic doesn’t have to be round-the-clock. The clinic need only be open enough to meet the needs of those who enroll from a particular senior living community and, possibly, its surroundings. Pine Park Health, for instance, is already in this space, but the opportunity is wide open for others.

Reactive Medicine

Today’s consumer’s encounter with the medical system often starts with a 20-minute physician time slot, of which the first minutes are spent by the physician in his or her office glancing through the patient’s record. The physician then bursts into the room, where the patient is ensconced with a hearty, “What brings you to us today?”

The hurried, harried physician then looks in ears, etc., offers a few responsive findings, and turns to type in a computer. The patient may timidly utter another nagging question, but the visit is soon ended with an offhand, “The nurse will be in soon with instructions.”

That’s reactive medicine. It involves patients, even sick patients, having to go to the doctor’s office to have that brief, very brief, encounter. The opportunity lies in the ability of senior living, with its community living model, to restore the relationship with medicine that once meant that people knew their doctor and that doctors knew their patients.

Relationship Medicine

I think of that changed reality every time I hear those TV hucksters for obscure prescription pharmaceuticals close with, “Ask your doctor!” One wonders when one could possibly ask a doctor. A patient would either have to be very ill or have a concierge doctor to even contemplate such a question. Senior living uniquely understands the relationship business.

Integrating clinical practice into senior living offers an opportunity to make senior living more attractive. It also offers an opportunity for revenue growth while providing a highly desirable public service.

By allowing physicians to get to know their patients where they live and in normal living, circumstances can improve outcomes. The flip side is that it can also allow patients to know their doctors and to ask those nagging signal questions that when neglected or unanswered can lead to the cost escalation of developing medical conditions.

That’s relationship medicine. It’s what senior living is good at. Just as a competent executive director interacts regularly with every resident and every employee, so a relationship physician interacts regularly with patients. Senior living knows how to do this. Modern reactive, harried technical medicine does not.

Going Deeper

Since delving into this more deeply requires a slightly longer discourse than is appropriate for Foresight, if this enterprise growth opportunity interests you, you can access that deeper dive by clicking here. There is also an invitation-only conference scheduled in Arlington, Virginia, for December 1, but anyone can attend the more in-depth conferences that RISE regularly offers.