The Future of the Industry

OnPointe Health CEO

The COVID-19 crisis has broken the cracks in the nation’s long-term care infrastructure wide open. Skilled Nursing News had an interview with Eric Tanner, CEO of OnPointe Health. Tanner says it is time to rethink the model.

“We’re seeing it across the United States, across the world: The model is fundamentally broken,” Tanner tells Skilled Nursing News. “If you’re asking residential caregivers to care for the sick, aged, and afflicted in a global pandemic — and do it with the necessity and the medical interventions that you would require at your top-tier hospitals, Cleveland Clinics, Mayo Clinics, Kaiser Permanentes of the world — it just doesn’t work.”

Tanner blames increased acuity or needs of the residents while funding and reimbursement have lagged for staffing and other resources.

“My point is, if you’re going to ask us to do more, you can no longer continue to ask us to do more with less,” Tanner said. “It doesn’t work.”

The interview is interesting. He never accepts responsibility. He refuses to say the industry was unprepared or at fault at all.

There’s the desire to blame someone. The reality is, the virus hits people who are older with a much greater intensity than people who are younger. Unfortunately, that very true fact is often muddled and sort of missed [as people hear]: Everybody needs to wear a mask, and kids shouldn’t be in school, and nobody go to sporting events or bars or whatever. But the reality is that there’s a targeted population that this virus is particularly lethal for, and that’s 70 or 80-plus.

New Model

Skilled Nursing News asked, “If COVID-19 is going to change the residential care model, what do you think the new model should look like?”

The truth of the matter is the model comes out of an army-barracks mentality, coming out of 1945.  But it’s stayed for 60, 70-plus years now. It’s been the model specifically for the United States, but it’s been exported to other countries. This is the way that we do it; a lot of other cultures, the parents and the grandparents age with the children and the grandchildren. That’s not the case anymore.

He stresses the need for proper medical resources.

But it has to be more focused on medical resources, because face shields and goggles and infection control preventionists and infection control physicians, that was not something that we were thinking about four months ago, let alone four years ago. But it’s something that we’re thinking about now. We’re thinking about it every day.

He argues that a hybrid is needed.  A hybrid would sit in between a traditional residential care model and a hospital.

SNN asked, “What does that hybrid look like in practice?”

“I think it’s private rooms. …capacity for respiratory care. I think it’s a greater nurse-to-patient ratio, with aides and nurses that maybe are [qualified specialists].

Eureka. It all comes down to safe staffing with qualified sufficient caregivers. And that depends on money. Tanner agrees:

This is a song I’ve been singing for a long time. It all goes back to the person paying the bill. I mean, I’m a capitalist too, but the reality is: You can’t be individually capitalist on the up, and then “we’re all in this together” on the down. Bailout’s always a word that people worry about using, but if you’re in the airline industry or the hotel industry or the SNF industry or any other industry that has had their revenue go to zero or nil or 50% of what it was — we’re not all in this together if people can’t get health insurance.