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Yardi recently announced the acquisition of Optimus EMR, which will be folded into the Yardi Senior Living suite of tools that includes Yardi Voyager® Senior Housing, Yardi EHR, and Yardi eMAR to further extend the scope of patient care process and facility management tools available to its customers. In this interview with ComputerTalk’s Will Lockwood, Yardi’s Eric Kolber, vice president of senior living, Fil Southerland, director of healthcare solutions, and Craig Griffin, director of long term care, explain the strategy behind the acquisition and the trends in the senior living market.

ComputerTalk: We’re talking about Yardi’s most recent acquisition today, and what it means in the current patient care environment. There can be a lot of complexity out there both in the patient are process and that complexity is often reflected in the technology pharmacies and facilities bring together to drive these processes, right?

Eric Kolber:
Yes, that’s right. Our decades of continuously evolving software development effort combined with a few strategic acquisitions have brought us to the center of property management and healthcare — specifically senior living, and we’ve found the union of these businesses to be a great fit. The diverse technology ranges from sales, marketing, and CRM for prospective residents, to care management and billing for current residents, to accounting, finance, and business intelligence on the business end, and even maintenance and construction on the property management end.

CT: And now tell us more about where you are now on the healthcare side.

We are focused on what we call full resident care, of which medication management is a subset. Particularly as we get into memory care, there is a need for assistance with medication management, but that’s just a part of resident care. There is a full assessment process that’s happening to determine a resident’s overall needs on an ongoing basis. There are care plans being written and progress notes being taken. So what we’ve really attempted to do is to bring more and more of that functionality into the technology platform that we offer, so that our clients don’t have to have different systems that don’t talk to each other and don’t give them insight into their full business.

CT: What different kinds of platforms are we talking about here?

We are talking about a single, enterprise-level platform, that is internet based so it can manage residents across multiple locations, but with online/offline technology to enable resident care to continue when internet connectivity is lost. Going back to when Yardi merged with ALMSA in early 2012, we were really able to put an exclamation point on what we were doing for resident care and healthcare for the assisted living space. That combination brought together two industry leaders, and gave us a medication management tool set, an eMAR [electronic medication administration record], bidirectional pharmacy interfaces, and more. We continue to this day to support our clients that use ALMSA as a stand-alone product, but we’ve also invested heavily to truly integrate that system into the Yardi Senior Living Suite. We did not just build a bridge or interface between separate systems, we truly merged ALMSA’s functionality into the larger Yardi application, taking careful steps to preserve the underlying ALMSA engine so as to maintain its sophisticated algorithms and proven stability. Our goal was to incorporate all of the operational tools into a single database on a single platform, so that our clients could leverage all of the benefits that come along with that.

CT: How does this address the trends you are seeing in the LTC market right now?

Fil Southerland:
I think we’re seeing really a lot of consolidation in the industry. So senior living providers are now offering the entire spectrum from independent living to assisted to skilled nursing. Yardi has really made a commitment to be able to address that entire portfolio. We’re also seeing a shift by these senior living providers where they’re really starting to organize their pharmacy provider strategy. What we do, in turn, as part of our sales process is we get in there and look at what pharmacies are in a senior living provider’s ecosystem system and identify those that we have integrations with, so we can really look at how to optimize software roll out. With the addition of Optimus we’re now going to be able to offer expertise across the board on the skilled nursing side.

CT: And what are some examples of the complexity you can address when you’ve got a single platform?

Well, for example, there are a range of different care settings a company using our software may manage. If we just make it simple and look at assisted-living and compare it to skilled-nursing, we can see there’s a need to do medication management in both, but there’s a different level of detail that’s required in a skilled nursing setting. And you’ve still got patient assessments, but again there’s a different level of detail. And then you can look at Medicare billing and reimbursements, and you’ll see that they don’t necessarily fit in the assisted-living space. And this is just comparing two of the various care settings. So in the end, while we’ll continue to support and grow the Optimus EMR [electronic medical record] as a stand-alone product, we’ll also look to fully incorporate it into the Yardi senior living suite so that, again, we can offer a single system, a single database.Recognizing that resident care is just one piece of the puzzle, when it can be managed through the same technology platform as the rest of the business – sales, accounting, property management, and so on – companies can achieve greater insight into, and control of, their operations. This helps them to improve resident care, reduce risk, and maximize revenue.

Craig Griffin:
This is why Optimus is thrilled to be a part of that line with Yardi because there was such a tremendous match in what they were doing, where they were headed in senior living, and what Optimus has been committed to all along. It was a real strategic opportunity to bring those two adjacent pieces together and really fulfill a need.

CT: So there’s a significant range of needs out there, depending on how far across the spectrum of long-term care customers are working.

Kolber: Yes, that’s true. There’s nothing that absolutely requires a company to have their eMAR coming from the same source as their EHR [electronic health record]. But when you put it all together, for example, plug Yardi eMAR into Yardi EHR, and now you have merged the tools used for administering one facet of resident care, med management, with the rest of the required resident care management tools. Now plug that into the larger Yardi Senior Living Suite to integrate the other facets of your business and operations, and now you have the technology in place to streamline workflows and truly effect positive change.

CT: Can you help by defining EHR for us? It’s one of those acronyms that I think everyone is familiar with, but that it helps to be precise about just what it means.

An EHR is a repository of information that you would expect from a medical record. It’s the tool that’s used to administer care to patients. It’s prompting nurses or med techs to give meds at the right time. It’s tracking in real time what’s been administered. It’s setting off alarms if there is a concern about something. It’s prompting caregivers at the point of care to take care of activities of daily living or or specific medically-related tasks in a more acute setting.

What I hope is coming through here is that it’s important to recognize that an EHR is much more than just a record, because if you focus on the “R” in the acronym a little too much, then you think of just the record of data that you want to be available to caregivers and clinical professionals. But over time, we believe that more and more companies are seeing the value in not having stand-alone products, but instead having components integrated into a larger system that allows them to function with a full resident or patient care management tool set. Then I think the thing that really distinguishes us from others in the industry, other technology companies, is that our tool set doesn’t just stop at resident care, it extends to management of the whole business, all the things that you need to run the actual business, from accounting to property management and sales, even to energy management in the building. There’s all kinds of stuff that really gets folded in with that Yardi suite of products.

CT: So we want to avoid we want to avoid looking at technology as a passive record, a view into the past. What you’re saying is we need to look at these as tool sets that are helping to get things done now and manage what needs to happen next.

That’s absolutely right. When you have the right technology you can answer questions such as, how can we mitigate risk in the future? How can we plan better for staffing? How can we budget for certain changes in occupancy? How can we figure out where we need to spend our marketing dollars, in terms of filling beds? There are all kinds of questions you can now start to answer if you aren’t creating silos.

CT: Here’s an interesting question then. When you start to talk about a suite of tools this sophisticated, one that can have an impact across such a broad range of clinical and business operations and processes, how do pharmacies and facilities get their heads around implementing this? This could be transformative for the way you operate, but could also seem a little overwhelming.

It’s interesting, we’ll have companies come to us facing various problems that they’re looking to solve with software, and one example is definitely the medication management side when they’re facing a compliance issue, survey issues, or a risk issue. What they’ll find as they start to implement is that our platform allows them to start looking at things like acuity-based staffing, so now they can start optimizing their staffing and they can optimize their care billing, for example. And so we work with them to create a phased approach, that rolls out the various features over an implementation timeline that keeps it from being overwhelming. 

So for example, we’ll do a billing and resident handling implementation and we’ll follow that with an electronic health record implementation and then roll out other products as we go, based on a company’s priorities. We’ve got several tools to support this process, including a proprietary e-learning platform and a webinar series. And this approach fits into what we’re seeing in the market. Because while we found before that clients were looking for piecemeal items — they might be looking for an eMAR or they might be looking for an assessment and care plan to help optimize their billing or staffing structure, what we’re seeing now is there’s much more awareness of the value of rolling out an integrated bundle of solutions.

It’s been our observation, too, that the customer really begins to grow into the full suite as they wrap their arms around a base package, maybe with some additional prioritized models on top. But once they start to see the benefit that they get out of the package or the modules that they have installed, they begin to dream, they begin to imagine, and then they begin to grow into the other modules at a pace that’s comfortable for them.

CT: To wrap up, summarize what you think LTC pharmacies should expect from their technology vendors and how the relationship can help elevate the service they’re offering? 

On thing we offer at Yardi is the opportunity for pharmacies to become a part of our certified network. We’re then able to evaluate what pharmacy relationships are available in the different regions. That helps us speed up our roll out because a big part of what we’re doing is focused on the interoperability, where we’re able to automatically populate information from ancillary systems. If we’re able to pull medications from the pharmacy partner system, that speeds up our implementation significantly. That’s really what we’re working on right now. CT