In an April 3rd Wall Street Journal op-ed titled “The Coronavirus Pandemic Will Forever Alter the World Order,” Henry Kissinger argued that the COVID-19 crisis will forever change our world. Comparing this crisis to World War 2, the former secretary of state counseled America to plan for a new future, right now, “The crisis effort, however vast and necessary, must not crowd out the urgent task of launching a parallel enterprise for the transition to the post-coronavirus order.” In terms of aging and aging services, this could hardly be more true. There will come a time when we will see the pandemic in the rear view mirror, but there will not come a time when we return to the old normal.
The disruption in seniors housing and care, which is now occurring at break-neck speed, is why I’ve chosen to launch Nexus Insights now, in the middle of this global crisis, for now is the time to understand what is changing, and why – and to plan for the post-COVID world.
Across our nation, operators and front line care workers are doing incredible things to protect residents and staff, even as the numbers of Americans infected continues to grow. In seniors housing and skilled nursing communities, these workers often must improvise, as many operators, often lacking sufficient government support, still must find their own personal protective equipment (PPE), secure adequate testing, and provide exhausted workers with other supports, such as childcare, meals, and healthy foods to bring their families. But operators must also anticipate and plan for when the worst of this crisis is behind us.
Only a few weeks ago, speaking about disruptive innovation at the 2020 NIC Spring Conference, I predicted that telehealth would become a major component of healthcare delivery for elders. I thought adoption of this existing technology was in its infant stages, and would gradually take hold as operators and providers began to understand its obvious advantages. But change takes time. I expected it would take three to six years before becoming the “new normal.” Here we are, three to six weeks later, and telehealth is now the new norm in healthcare delivery, and for the first time there are broad-based payments associated with it.
Other changes are taking place, just as rapidly. For the first time, seniors and their family members are fearful of hospitals. They will now view the prospect of sitting in a doctor’s waiting room during flu season as highly unsafe. Many now view their homes as the safest place, and will seek care that comes to them. These changes in the way people think will have enormous implications for senior care and aging services.
Nexus Insights is here to help leaders begin to think about and plan for a post-COVID-19 reality. We recognize that there will be major changes, not just in seniors housing and care, but in all aging services, and in how we, as a society, will view aging itself, as well as older adults. The disruption this will cause will involve a range of industries beyond just healthcare, including hospitality, multifamily, retail, transportation, technology, and more. It will become necessary to create experiences for these customers, customized to their preferences – and demands.
There is a great deal of opportunity, once we’re past the crisis – but there’s a lot of risk, too. If leaders don’t adapt during this period of immense disruption in attitudes, demographic shifts, technological capabilities, and customer expectations, then others will. Those offering old models from the old world will soon find themselves out-moded, the disrupted instead of the disruptor, in a new world order designed and built by their competitors.