By Steve Moran
As you may know, the Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) now Argentum has been working on a report that basically compiles input from industry leaders about what they expect (or hope) the industry will look like in 2025. I caught up with ALFA’s new president and CEO, James Balda, with hopes that he could share the direction of the report and some of the input they’ve gotten so far. Beyond that I wanted to get a sense of where the new ALFA, Argentum, is heading. James tells me that they’ve been focusing on various initiatives as they relate to three key areas:
Standards setting: They plan to roll out what James refers to as the “first generation set” of standards for consideration at the end of the year.
Establishing an executive director credentialing program: Argentum plans to beta test this in early 2016.
Working with their state partners: This comes out of the success they’ve had to date over the last several months, particularly with partners in Texas and Florida where they’ve been able to get some meaningful legislative changes passed.
I asked James what the big challenges are that senior living providers are facing. He listed two:
A huge challenge is finding talent and keeping it amidst growing competition. “This is a new generation of workers. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find talent and ultimately keep talent in a competitive hiring environment,” James tells me. “A lot of the work we’re doing surrounds helping the industry create a culture for individuals to want to work in the industry and make it a career opportunity.”
He noted that one of the really positive developments is the number of good academic programs that are delivering a fresh generation of high quality leaders to the industry including programs at USC, Washington State University, Cornell and George Mason. He also said there is a lot more that we could be doing; whether it's through leadership training programs or certificate programs to further enhance the talent we've got and attract new talent.
I asked what kind of advice he’d give a college student who is trying to decide whether or not to come into the senior living industry?
“I'd say come in, it's a great industry,” he says. “I’ve been here for eight months and I’m wowed by the level of commitment and passion of the folks that work in the industry and the care that they're providing. There's no other industry that's going to grow as much over the next 10, 15, 20 years.”
James also foresees quality measurement and standards as a huge issue in the industry. Argentum will soon be rolling out their first-generation set of standards around how to capture metrics relating to quality of care. Then, as we all know, the challenge is to find ways to articulate that to consumers as well as to regulators.
We spent some time talking about the regulatory environment for assisted living; here are his thoughts:
“We're regulated at the state level, which is where we should be regulated because it allows for innovation within the industry,” says James “But there’s also a need for consistency across the board. So the challenge is how to get consistency at the state regulatory level while ensuring that federal oversight is not in our future.”
Some states do some things very well and other states do other things very well and vice versa. Here are a couple of examples:
In some states you can offer services such as hospice within a community and other states require that the resident leave the community.
States have different definitions of what assisted living is, which creates confusion in the marketplace.
Argentum is working hard to get better consistency across state lines. This will particularly help operators with communities in multiple states.
Here is what to expect in the Argentum report:
It will identify the key initiatives for Argentum and the industry as a whole for the next 10 years, but that does not necessarily mean Argentum will take the lead on all of them. It will include consumer awareness and educations needs. It will also talk about financial and operational benchmarking.
Argentum expects to release the report in January 2016.
You can listen to the entire interview here: