04 March 2021

What's Keeping Your Senior Communities Safe?

By Nathan Riley By Nathan Riley

What’s keeping your residents and staff safe from COVID-19? It’s an important question.

If I was to tell you that some senior housing providers have used AI to improve testing efficiencies, others have found answers in our sewage and one company has even borrowed tactics from the National Basketball Association (NBA) and National Hockey League (NHL) – would you believe me?

One year into the global pandemic, that’s the situation we find ourselves in with the industry continuing to innovate and keep its communities safe.

Even as vaccination efforts ramp-up, testing remains a priority for care homes so that we can safely ease restrictions and start to get back to life-as-usual.

AI is Improving Testing 

Early in the pandemic, the New Jersey-based senior living provider, Juniper Communities, was among the first to advocate and implement widespread and frequent COVID-19 testing.

That laid the foundations for its pioneering wok with the California-based machine-learning algorithm company, Dascena. Together, they’ve harnessed the power of AI to discover new ways to streamline the testing process.

Their algorithm-driven COVID-19 testing strategy requires cheek swab testing to be conducted in coordination with data collection on each resident’s demographic information (sex, age, place of residents). This information helps power the Dascena algorithm, which identifies patients who are at greater risk of hospitalisation by organising them into low, medium and high-risk categories.

This helps Juniper staff allocate their testing resources and time effectively – both of which have been in short supply for everyone during the pandemic. The information provided by Dascena’s algorithm is also useful for vaccination programs to help identify candidates for early vaccinations.

Juniper and Dascena haven’t stopped there. The two companies have also collaborated on a new documentation and reporting portal and workflow to reduce indirect costs associated with testing. In a preliminary study, the new portal and process cut administrative time in half - saving significantly on the indirect costs associated with testing.

What’s Our Sewage Telling Us?

While AI is improving efficiency in testing, some senior living providers have found that testing wastewater, from sewer systems, has helped provide early COVID-19 warnings.

Cadence Living was the first company to input this type of testing into its communities, with the support of Pangolin Health, which has technology to detect the presence of pathogens like COVID-19.

When coupled with traditional PCR and rapid testing, the outflow testing provides an added layer of protection and offers a constant flow of data for Cadence to analyse. This is especially valuable for communities with residents who are waiting days for their COVID-19 test results.

While Cadence has chosen to partner with Pangolin Health, it’s worth saying that their a lot of other companies providing this innovative form of testing. For example, Geosytec uses a RT-qPCR test for detecting the virus in sewage and environmental samples. This is the most sensitive method for mRNA quantification and reduces the potential for false positives.

Geosyntec has partnered with multiple communities to keep residents safe. To do so, the company’s monitoring process is a lot more in-depth than a simple test offering.

After the wastewater sample is monitored for virus’ presence, Geosyntec then develops facility-wide best management practices to help establish a standard of care. The efficacy of disinfection protocols is tested and verification sampling is provided. There are third-party audits of disinfection procedures too, to ensure continued compliance with established protocols.

This offering means that Geosyntec acts as a true partner to the communities they serve. But most importantly, residents and staff can feel safe amid a time of such uncertainty.

NBA & NHL Tactics Entering Senior Housing

All this technology is fantastic, however, it’s not the only way we’ve been keeping communities safe.

For example, California-based senior housing provider, Kisco Senior Living, has borrowed tactics from the NBA and NHL by using rapid ‘pooled’ COVID-19 testing.

If you didn’t know, the NBA and NHL successfully implemented this system to safely finish their 2020 seasons. The NBA did this at the ESPN Wide World of Sports facility in Orlando, Florida, with a strategy which included restricting anyone into their ‘bubble’ except for those deemed necessary, including players, coaches, certain media personnel and referees.

Anyway, back to senior housing.

Kisco has employed this forward-thinking strategy at the Cedarwood at Sandy and Sagewood at Daybreak communities, with support from SiREM Labs for the testing.

This process starts with regular PCR testing which occurs once a week for residents who haven’t left the community, and twice for residents who left the community that week. A negative test for the pool means that no one in the group is infected with COVID-19, while a positive test means at least one person in the group has contracted it.

With the pools arranged in either 50 or 100-person groups, Kisco’s detection method can identify an infected person before they’ve shown symptoms.

So, I wasn’t lying. Senior housing providers have really used AI to improve testing efficiencies, found answers in our sewage and borrowed tactics from the NBA and NHL. The response from the industry has been magnificent. These innovations have and are helping communities ease restrictions safely and eliminate any unnecessary quarantining.

If you know of any more innovative ways that senior housing provider are keeping their residents and staff safe, I love to hear about them. Please email me at Nathan.Riley@medical-cm.com.

For more information about myself, please check out my consultant page.

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Nathan Riley

Nathan Riley is a Business Consultant specialised in the US Senior Housing market. His specialist network and knowledge of the sector allows him to provide thorough, detailed searches for his clients. Nathan has utilised his senior housing operations and real estate insight to successfully attribute into the long-term success of many major corporations, start-up organisations and management groups across North America.

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