By Steve Moran
The NIC conference is done. As one attendee put it, at least when it comes to attendee sentiment, it was like 2 conferences in one.
As many of you know, when I go to conferences, I carry one of those little silver clickers in my pocket and I keep track of the number of conversations I have during the conference. One click for each new unique person I chat with. Two conversations with the same person only counts as one. It is too hard too keep track from conference to conference so I will double or triple count (or more) folks I see at multiple conferences.
Somewhere along the way I lost my clicker on Thursday afternoon so my final guess is a bit rougher, but it looks like I had conversations with about 150 people. And in case you are interested, I am at about 1,200 for the year.
What was funny to me was that while I had lots of great senior living discussions, the number one thing people wanted to know was this: “How was Burning Man?”
While the presentations are great, the greatest beauty of NIC is the ability to network with the best, the brightest and most influential in the industry. Many, many of the attendees don’t attend a single session because for them the highest value is connecting with other professionals.
2 Conferences In One
The sentiment for skilled nursing providers in one bucket and the rest of the senior living industry were very different.
Skilled Nursing: The whole payment schema for healthcare and post-acute care is rapidly changing. Post-acute care for elders is the most expensive segment of the healthcare system. This means it is the biggest target for reducing costs, which translates into reducing payments to long-term care providers. This takes place in a shift to managed care, shorter stays, lower rates and bundled payments.
There is a sense that these cost containment efforts will continue to impact skilled nursing operators in a negative way.
The biggest frustration is that while post-acute represents a huge portion of the spend by the government, the provider base is so fragmented they have very little meaningful input into how those dollars are being allocated. This is beginning to change, hospitals are working very hard to keep patients out of the hospital without triggering a readmission. Skilled providers are in the perfect position to help hospitals accomplish this goal.
I would also note that while many traditional skilled nursing providers worried about the shifting payment systems, this is not universal. I did two interviews with folks at Mainstreet (a Senior Housing Forum partner) and they see the changing payment landscape as a huge opportunity for growth (The stories to come).
Senior Living: The senior living side of the sector seems to be maturing. There continues to be too much money chasing too few deals and yet there is sanity. What I mean by this is that, operators are more likely to say, “I am willing to be patient for the right deal. I have money, I want to do a deal but not just any deal.”
Another way of describing it is that everyone seems more disciplined in their approach to both new construction and existing properties.
There is concern that we are stuck at a sub 90% occupancy rate and that the economy can’t keep growing forever. There is also a realization that for the next few years, the 80+ cohort will actually take a little dip which could further impact occupancy levels.
NIC continues to be this wonderful scary, exciting place. It can be scary and lonely and dynamic and exciting. There are insiders and outsiders and those in between. There are friendly people (most of them) and jerks.
The NIC talks were terrific and I will be writing more about them.
I did a bunch of video interviews including some amazing inspirational stories that I can tell and you can tell. These stories mostly represent the very best of senior living . . . actually one of them is a “they should not have done that” kind of story.
Next up: SMASH/SHINE conference in Chicago
Finally I got a tiny bit of facetime on NIC TV. You can see me at about 1 minute 20 seconds here: