Survey Points to Best Practices for Successful Innovation

Posted by CC Andrews

Nov 1, 2017 12:00:00 AM

No company can ignore the imperative to innovate and failing to do so is an invitation to lose business. This is the introduction to a new report from PwC on—you guessed it—innovation.

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Based on a survey of more than 1,200 executives in 44 countries, the report attempts to uncover a better understanding of how innovating companies are seeking to create business value and financial returns on their efforts. PwC’s survey asked questions about innovation strategy, operating models, culture, metrics, and more.

So what does this have to do with long-term/post-acute care and senior living? Well everything, of course. How’s that? Aging services providers know that they must innovate in order to succeed amid the impending wave of alternative payment models, stiff competition, and threats to Medicaid and Medicare funding.

Titled “Reinventing Innovation: Five Findings to Guide Strategy Through Execution,” the report is packed with juicy insights and stats. Here are some key findings:

1. Growing the Sandbox: The majority of the survey respondents are big believers in bringing more stakeholders into to the “innovation sandbox.” Among other things, PwC asserts that casting a wider net when it comes to getting input and generating ideas can improve innovation’s alignment with business strategy, help companies access fresh ideas and critical talent, and also enable them fail faster and get new innovations to market sooner. With this in mind, the report states, companies are opening up their innovation processes earlier to a broader set of stakeholders—from both inside and outside the company. In fact, the majority of companies surveyed said are bringing customers—as well as employees—into the innovation process at the ideation phase.

2. Reimagine and Experiment: Innovating without aligning it with strategy is not a prudent path for most companies, according to the report, which finds that for any initiative to deliver true value, it must clearly align with a company’s business strategy. The authors offered that example of GE Ventures, which, according to CEO Sue Siegel, means they must focus on reimagining and experimenting with new business models. “Emergent technologies are very powerful, but what we have to figure out is, what is the sustainable business model that we could potentially either partner up with or use within our organization to drive growth? We’ve been able to experiment to translate these major trends and technology enablers and apply them to business model innovation. That is incredibly important to how we stay ‘tip of spear’ at GE,” she said. That being said, the survey found that more than half of innovating companies struggle with bridging the gap between innovation strategy and business strategy, flagging it as their greatest strategic challenge when it comes to innovation.

3. The Right Stuff: Finding employees with the right human judgment and intuition in examining the data is “critical to obtaining useful insights for innovation,” the report suggests. “Soft skills like these are clearly valued by the executives we surveyed, who say their employees are their most important partners in innovation, ranking them above technology partners.” For example, Eddie Copeland, director of government innovation at Nesta, says that senior management’s failure to listen to frontline workers can be a major obstacle to innovation in government organizations. “Frontline employees often see problems and solutions more clearly than their cost-conscious managers,” she said. Also important to remember is that even if an employee doesn’t sit on a company’s core innovation team, they can still valuable contributors to innovation efforts early in the process. As Copeland explains in the report, they can function “as more than just personnel to whom innovations are pushed out for execution purposes.” Finally, don’t forget that employees are also consumers who can bring end-user insights into the innovation process. The survey found that 32 percent of the businesses surveyed said that finding employees with the right skills is their biggest people-related innovation challenge.

4. Technology Leads the Way: Companies continue to look to technology to help create markets for novel products and services that don’t yet exist, a la smartphones and wearables. Nearly one-third of those survey said their innovation is either all or mostly technology-led, while another one-third say they use a combination of technology and market-led innovation. Technology companies unsurprisingly are the leaders when it comes to “breakthrough innovation.” Nearly two-thirds of them make it a focus of most or all of their innovation efforts, according to the report. Maybe a little more surprising is that pharmaceutical and life sciences and health sciences companies follow technology in focusing mostly on breakthrough innovation.

PwC stresses that as companies invest more in innovation, they must strive to do a better job of aligning their innovation efforts with their business strategy. “Innovation spending ultimately has to drive business value and financial performance,” the report concludes. “But for that to happen in any consistent way, innovators should understand and help define future business models that can support the innovations they create.”

If you want a focused approach to your innovation strategies, facilitated by experts in the senior living field and candid feedback, contact Quantum Age today.

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Topics: Senior care, long-term and post-acute care, innovations, aging services

A Deep Dive Into the Policy Response to Global Aging

Posted by CC Andrews

Jul 25, 2017 12:00:00 AM

The fine folks at AARP have once again produced an excellent and useful report for those of us in aging services who are always on the lookout for data, resources, and expert analysis. Released last month, the “Aging Readiness & Competiveness Report” accomplishes this on several levels: it helps us get a handle on Global Aging photo.jpghow the rest of the world is responding to their aging populations, it gives us a perspective on how other countries treat their elders, and it helps us better understand how to maneuver in the longevity economy.


Developed in conjunction with FP Analytics, the report is lengthy but certainly worth a review. Following are some highlights that I hope will help you navigate it better:


  1. It’s divided into sections by the 12 countries it covers: Canada, Germany, Israel, Japan, Korea, the United Kingdom, the United States, Brazil, China, Mexico, Turkey, and South Africa. 
  1. The countries were chosen because they are the largest economies by region, with the exception of Africa, where the largest upper middle-income economy was chosen. Together, they represent “61 percent of the global economy and nearly half of people aged 65 or older, and include a diversity of economic, social, and cultural contexts.” 
  1. The countries are analyzed according to the pressures and opportunities each faces, as well as by their policy responses as they related to the following four pillars: Community Social Infrastructure, Productive Opportunity, Technological Engagement, and Healthcare and Wellness.

Regarding the latter item, this is where it gets interesting. The report offers a deeper dive into how each country is preparing for longer lifespans and declining birthrates. That said, here are some highlights:


  • Community Social Infrastructure: As the authors point out, some of the most innovative projects around fostering social engagement, healthier lives and even economics returns can be found not in national policy but among local stakeholders such as municipalities, schools, and community organizations. In Japan, for example, the post office network in each community is being leveraged to conduct routine check-ins for older adults at a rather low cost. 
  • Productive Opportunity: Among other things, a number of countries have created flexible retirement policies that enable older adults to reduce their work hours in exchange for working later into their lives. The report also cites the recognition of ageism among employers as prevalent among both high-income and upper middle-income countries. While this is not a new phenomenon here in the U.S., it is heartening to see that it’s being addressed around the world. In the U.K., for instance, the Age Positive Initiative (API) is cited as exemplary because it offers employers a toolkit to address “retaining, retraining, and recruiting older workers, as well as guidance for employers and staff regarding a range of issues related to ageism in the workplace.” Also in the U.K., the Now Teach program aims to “start a movement of senior professionals [by] redeploying their skills in the classroom and teaching the children who need it most.”
  • Technological Engagement: According to the report, digital literacy programs tailored specifically for older students have yielded better results than those that are designed to serve a broader audience. This may be obvious, but the report cites “particular success” in training technology-savvy older adults who then help their peers learn digital skills. Senior Planet is noted as a “pioneering community center network that has placed digital skills at the center of all its activities.” Based in New York City, the organization shares information and resources “that support aging with attitude, and helps people who were born long before the digital revolution to stay engaged and active by bringing a digital-technology focus to a range of topics.” 
  • Healthcare and Wellness: With only three countries of the 12 countries studied for the report requiring their citizens to have long-term care insurance, shortages in institutional capacity, and ever-present fiscal constraints, countries are looking to foster more home- and community-based care options. As in the U.S., many countries are turning to robotics and e-health as possible solutions to improve healthcare and remote access. In Korea, where Internet speeds are the fastest in the world, the nationwide broadband network is being leveraged to offer “more efficient and higher-quality care to its rural population” with services that include remote checkups.

Take the time to read as much of the report as you can, as it contains vastly more detailed information about policies, programs, and innovations in each of the countries examined. I promise you will find something of interest.


If you would like to raise the profile of your innovative services and products with a focused approach that is facilitated by experts in the longevity economy, contact Quantum Age today.


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Topics: Aging, innovations, innovative

Life Expectancy Disparities Point to Opportunities for Aging Services Innovation

Posted by CC Andrews

May 12, 2017 11:33:21 AM

A Washington Post article about life expectancy in the United States caught my eye recently—not because it was about how people are living longer (in general, we are) but because there are several places in the country where life expectancy is reversing. In other words, as Reporter Joel Achenbach points out, in many pockets of the United States, life expectancy is more than 20 years lower. “Death rates are going Life expectancy and longevity economyconspicuously in the other direction,” he notes in the article, citing a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

There are of course a number of reasons why this indicator is troubling, but as a disciple of the longevity economy, I find it particularly unsettling given the massive opportunities that aging services innovators have and continue to offer older adults and their families and loved ones.

According to the JAMA study, “much of the variation in life expectancy among counties can be explained by a combination of socioeconomic and race/ethnicity factors, behavioral and metabolic risk factors, and health care factors.” Reversing the trend of increasing disparities may be helped by “policy action targeting socioeconomic factors and behavioral and metabolic risk factors,” the authors point out.

In his article, Achenbach points to other research showing that the United States is failing to keep up with improvements in longevity seen in other affluent nations. “In 2013, researchers described what they called a ‘health advantage’ in the United States when compared to peer countries,” he writes, adding that more recent research has focused on “diseases of despair” that have contributed to a precipitous rise in death rates among midlife working-class whites.

I appreciate that Achenbach calls attention to this issue. And although I am not an epidemiologist, it seems to me that with all of the shiny new technology and innovations coming from our beloved field there should be some fundamental steps we can take to include everyone in our journey toward longevity and leveling these disparities.

That said, there are also plenty of opportunities for aging services entrepreneurs to take on this challenge with success.

If you want a focused approach, facilitated by experts in the longevity economy, as well as honest feedback, contact Quantum Age today.

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Topics: longevity economy, innovations, thought leadership

A Fresh Take on Senior Care Technology and Innovation

Posted by CC Andrews

Feb 7, 2017 12:00:00 AM

File this one under “never knew this group existed but what a cool idea”: The Consumer Technology Association Foundation, a public foundation with the mission to link seniors and people with disabilities with technologies to enhance their lives. Yep, they exist and they published a report that found, among other things, that “meeting the needs of a growing aging population will require new technologies, partnerships, ideas, and business models.”QA Blog senior technology photo.jpg

Ok, so that’s not much of a revelation to those of us entrenched in this field. But read on, it gets better.

The report, titled “Outthink Aging,” also examines how technology will empower seniors to live longer, healthier, and more independent lives by preventing fraud and abuse, providing greater social connectivity, and improving access to vital information and services. Reaching all of these goals remains to be seen but they are worthy.

Among the more salient points made in the report is that technology is just part of the answer to addressing the complex challenges of an aging population. More innovation is needed in our field and technology is just one piece of this puzzle. Amen, and as the report aptly notes, “the aging population is not a user group.”

Human needs are complex and not easily met through technological fixes alone, it further states. The trick is to engage this cohort by “leveraging technical innovation and human empathy to enhance the human experience.”

I’m not sure what engaging “human empathy” looks like, but I understand where they are going, and I would add that the best way to create new innovations that meet the needs of an aging population is to develop the technology with elders and individuals with disabilities—not just for them.

In addition to some great ideas about innovation and technology, the report also notes that activities of daily living are “activities that happen on the surface of day-to-day life.” The groups offer a new list of “core desires of an aging population,” as follows:

  • Health: Access to high-quality healthcare encouraging both physical and cognitive wellbeing.
  • Connection: Capability to stay in touch with loved ones and maintain an active role in their communities.
  • Security: Ability to live safely in one’s home and have protections against theft and financial fraud.
  • Dignity and Independence: Respect and control over direction of their lives.

Also notable is the fact that the CTA Foundation collaborated with IBM to create the report. IBM seems pretty happy about it: “[It] is an excellent example of the new types of relationships that will be necessary to meet the needs of the growing aging population,” Dr. Ruoyi Zhou, director of IBM Accessibility Research, says in a statement. He’s right—new types of relationships will be a crucial factor in addressing the needs of elders in useful and innovative ways.

Stephen Ewell, executive director of the CTA Foundation, is also on board. In the same statement, he asserts that “new partnerships between industry, nonprofits, academia, government, and the general public will form to accomplish these goals.” He’s right, and I’m happy to see that more and more folks are getting it.

In addition to innovative ideas and collaborations, the two groups conducted an informal poll at last year’s Consumer Electronics Show (N = 300 to 400) to gauge attendees’ concerns about the challenges of aging:

  • 47 percent of respondents worry most about losing their memory and suffering from dementia as they age.
  • 38 percent believe smart homes and the Internet of Things will best help manage the aging process.
  • 35 percent believe discussing assisted/long-term care is the most difficult conversation to have with their parents.

The report also cites other research from the foundation showing that the U.S. market for active aging technology now encompasses 85 million Americans, representing a $24.4 billion market opportunity in 2015 that is expected to grow to $42.7 billion by 2020 (more from AARP’s report on the longevity economy HERE).

In conclusion, I believe this report is a great resource if you’re interested in dipping your toe into the field of aging services or if you are already in it and need a refresher or energizer on innovation and resources.

If you want a focused approach, facilitated by experts in the senior living field and candid feedback, contact Quantum Age today. 

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Topics: Aging, technology, tech, innovations

New Payment Models Foster Care Innovations

Posted by CC Andrews

Nov 15, 2016 8:39:00 PM

Payment reform is the new driver of innovation in long-term and post-acute care, according to Laurence Gumina, CEO of Columbus-Ohio-based Ohio Living (formerly Ohio Presbyterian Retirement Services). He conveyed his message via a session at the LeadingAge annual meeting last month, along with his colleague, Wendy Price Kiser, executive director of Ohio Living Home Health & Hospice of Greater Toledo.

Gumina recently led the organization through a new strategy development and name change, and the results are indeed innovative. With 12 life plan communities, a home hePHOTO QA Blog innovations pexels-photo-143654.jpegalth and hospice care agency, and a foundation under its umbrella, Gumina says he wanted to step outside the boundaries of a typical model and create an innovative value proposition that would be effective in moving the organization into the new world of value-based purchasing.

What’s more, Gumina saw the writing on the wall; he knew he had to be proactive about adapting to the new payment reforms before it was too late. Another significant factor in Ohio Living’s drive to be more innovative is the impending SNF readmission measure that takes effect fiscal year 2019.

The most interesting of Ohio Living’s new models, in my opinion, is its successful home health and hospice services. Branded as the Home to Stay Program, it was created to improve quality and reduce hospital readmissions for patients.

In outlining Home to Stay’s highly successful relationships with two ACOs, Price Kiser noted that although it took their first partner six months to respond to her call, the care coordination model is now a valued component in the ACO’s continuum. “We told them that we wanted to work with them and that we would see all of the discharges coming out of the hospital,” said Price Kiser. Yes, she said ALL of their discharges. It was a risky offer to provide free transitional care to some patients but they bet on the fact that it would enhance their value proposition for the ACO--and it worked.

And like many creative and innovative models that are rooted in everyday common sense, so too is Ohio Living’s. As Price Kiser said: “It isn’t rocket science.” With some “basic clinical judgment” baked into the program, she pointed to a simple yet critical factor in their model: caregivers meet with the patients the very next day after they are discharged. In addition, they focus on two things: medication safety and medication reconciliation.

Here’s how it works:

  • Day 1-Coach Visit: The patient signs a consent form, the caregiver conducts a medication reconciliation, takes vitals, creates a personal emergency plan, does a fall risk assessment, confirms a follow-up appointment with (and transportation to) a primary care provider.
  • Day 8 – Coach Visit: Review any red flags, determine signs and symptoms and coach interventions, follow up on any issues identified during the first visit, review medication plan, and determine if any PCP appointments and medication changes are necessary.
  • Day 17 – Coaching Call: Confirm a PCP visit was made and discuss the results of the visit.
  • Day 22 – Coaching Call: Determine signs and/or symptoms and coach interventions, if necessary.
  • Day 30 – Coaching Call: Determine signs and/or symptoms and coach interventions and discharge from the program.

As of October, the cumulative hospital readmission rate was 3.6 percent, Price Kiser reported.

Also successful is Home to Stay’s involvement in a Comprehensive Joint Replacement model. Similar to its ACO model, tracking metrics and a focus on patient engagement and education are key to preventing avoidable readmissions under the CJR, Price Kiser said.

The two presenters offered some additional advice for providers seeking their own secret sauce for innovation: Create a value differentiator—something that makes your organization memorable; seek new and unique partnerships; and, last but not least, track metrics, analyze them, and share that data with potential partners.

If you want to create innovative new services or business lines, facilitated by experts in the senior living field, with candid feedback, contact Quantum Age today.

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Topics: home care, long-term and post-acute care, innovations, life plan community

Combining Aging and Innovation is Great but Elder Input is Key

Posted by CC Andrews

Oct 31, 2016 9:21:00 PM

Fall show season in the long-term and post-acute care industry has come to a close. As someone who has diligently attended many aging services-related conferences over the last 20 or so years, I can report that one stood out among the usual suspects this year—the Aging 2.0 OPTIMIZE conference.Aging 2.0 photo.jpg

In fact, I had anticipated the conference for some time, having heard about it from colleagues and given its promise to marry innovation and aging. For the most part, it did not disappoint: there were many new and enthusiastic entrepreneurs eager to show off their innovations and win over investors and customers. With about 900 attendees, the feeling of the conference was energetic, perhaps because many of those in attendance were relative newcomers to our relatively small aging services ecosystem.

Unfortunately, too many of the exhibitors—all of whom I’m sure have good intentions—had made what I believe were incorrect assumptions about what or how their inventions would aid older adults. In some instances the name of a gadget or software platform was condescending, ageist even. In one example, a service for elders and their families seemed to make an assumption that the users would have positive reactions to a robotic, Siri-like voice making phone calls to them. In another, a “simplified” tablet would make technology accessible easy for old people (those 50+). Being a member of that demographic, I wasn’t clear what problem this solved for me (I love my tablet).

For the uninitiated, Aging 2.0 is a San Francisco-based organization that “connects, educates and supports innovators through community, events, startup programs, and content.” You may be familiar with the local Aging 2.0 chapters that host pitch events for senior facing startup companies in search of investors.

On display in the main meeting room of OPTIMIZE were some 60 exhibitors. The majority of them were in a startup phase, hoping to attract funding for their innovations.

Some highlights of the conference for me:

  1. UZURV: A transportation reservation services app “created to enhance the on-demand riding and driving experience.” The app works in conjunction with existing on-demand transportation services like Uber and Lyft, allowing riders to make advanced reservations with the driver of their choice. The company was at Aging 2.0 seeking capital to expand its services into the senior living niche. The appeal to riders is that it’s customizable—the user can filter drivers in a variety of ways: by vehicle, amenities and special services; by driver profiles; and by sending requests to favorite drivers they know and trust. In doing so, the company hopes to appeal to elders and their caregivers because it “improves the quality, safety, and accessibility of on-demand transportation.” 

    My take on it: Since UZURV is already in 60 or so cities it’s a no-brainer to make the expansion into senior living, although rollout strategy will be extremely important. However, the company will have to work with Lyft and Uber, which could present some challenges.

  2. FibriCheck: Created by a Belgium-based company, FibriCheck is a screening and monitoring software that detects arrhythmias in patients. Whenever a patient feels symptoms, FibriCheck can immediately record the heart rhythm using their phone camera function, which is the coolest thing about the technology—it requires only an index finger on the smartphone camera.

    My take on it: It’s incredibly user-friendly. What’s not to like about its simplicity? It has already been deployed in Belgium but the technology could face some challenges getting into the U.S. market. Of note: FibriCheck was also the conference’s Audience Choice winner.        

  3. Cariloop: A service that provides comprehensive “coaching” via phone or video chat for loved ones of older adults whose lives been turned upside down by an event that requires myriad medical, legal, and financial assistance. The company also organizes medical records and other important information into a secure portal that allows for “easy storage of important files and ongoing collaboration” with a coach. 

    My take on it: Since Cariloop contracts with companies to benefit their employees, their services are sort of like having an employee assistance plan and a geriatric care manager all rolled into one. I like this no-wrong-door approach.

There were a number of other innovative and clever creations that I’m sure will be successful in the longevity economy. But for those that don’t have a handle on what elders really need and want, I hope they will consider spending more time with elders and designing with them—not just for them. 

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Topics: Aging, innovations

Furnishings Combine Innovation and Person-Centered Design

Posted by CC Andrews

Sep 29, 2016 9:49:06 AM

In just a couple of weeks, Quantum Age Collaborative will head to the Aging 2.0 OPTIMIZE conference in San Francisco, where we expect to find some highly innovative individuals, organizations, and companies navigating their way through the opportunities presented by the longevity economy.

I asupply-cabinet-1-515x5611-515x561.jpgm particularly excited about one individual on the OPTIMIZE agenda, Jennie Bucove, founder and CEO of Furnished Living, a company with a new line of furniture “that addresses the needs of older adults and people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.”

What’s most intriguing about the products is that they seem to be highly person-centered. I was able to catch up with Bucove recently to get some more details about the company, as well as a sneak peek of her talk at Aging 2.0 before she gives it on Thursday, Oct. 13.

Like many entrepreneurs in the senior living space, Bucove spent much of her career climbing the corporate ladder before her father’s health began to decline and he had to move to a long-term care center. “The home was lovely and extremely helpful to my father,” says Bucove, “but when I visited him I noticed that once he sat down in the chair in his room he couldn’t get up out of it.” As a result, Bucove says she often had to help him get up.

In addition, Bucove noticed that her father’s bed was made with a plastic headboard that was not at all conducive to his mobility or safety. “His furniture looked like it belonged in a dorm room,” she says.

After talking with friends who’d had similar experiences with their parents and loved ones in long-term care communities, Bucove realized that there had to be a market for better furniture—furniture that would both optimize elders’ independence and heighten engagement with staff and family members. “It was a light-bulb moment for me,” she says.

Bucove soon began compiling a design team and launched a search for a manufacturer. The process was not an easy one, she says, but she eventually found the right group of people, which included renowned gerontologist Rosemary Bakker.

The next step was to find a place to put the furniture to use. In a serendipitous turn of events, Bucove met Mike Shmerling, founder of Abe’s Garden, a memory care community in Nashville, Tenn. Shmerling’s father had Alzheimer’s diseaAging_Optimize_logo.pngse and had lived in multiple long-term care centers. “He had been kicked out of every facility because of his disease, so Mike decided to create a community on his own,” Bucove explains.

She credits Shmerling’s entrepreneurial spirit for being open to putting her furniture designs in his building.

“So I worked with Mike and his design firm to fine-tune the furniture before putting them into Abe’s Garden,” says Bucove. Since then, she says she has learned that the furniture is helpful in improving residents’ independence, enhancing engagement with visitors, and helping staff avoid injury, among other things.

Of the eight pieces of furniture designed and produced by Furnish Living, the supply cabinet and the night stand sound most promising to me. The supply cabinet has a magnetic cover that holds cloth and magnetic frames for photos. “It’s made so family members can take them down and look at them with their loved ones,” says Bucove. The door on the supply cabinet also has no handles and it uses a magnetic lock system so that staff need carry only one key fob to disengage the lock, when necessary.nighttable1-515x5612-515x561.jpg

The nightstand has a light that illuminates the floor in front of it so the user can see the floor in the middle of the night—thus reducing fall risks—and a dimmer so that it doesn’t keep sleeping residents awake but allows for enough light for a staff member to check in.

The Aging2.0 OPTIMIZE conference, which takes place from Oct. 12 to 14 in San Francisco, brings together senior care executives, tech companies, investors, and entrepreneurs from around the globe to experience the intersection of aging and innovation.

If you are interested in attending, the Aging 2.0 folks are offering a last-minute discount for those who register with this code: A2NETWORK.

I hope to see you there!

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Topics: Aging, technology, long term care, design, innovations