EDISON, NJ—Over the last year, Spring Hills—a trusted name in senior living—has devoted significant resources to redefining operations and staffing. In response to the pandemic, labor challenges and supply chain disruptions that have affected the entire economy, Spring Hills has taken the opportunity to transform its organizational processes on three levels: operations, recruitment/retention and continuum of care.
“We have seen a lot of changes during [our] 20-plus years of experience—and especially over the past three years,” commented Alexander Markowits, president/CEO of Spring Hills. “What hasn’t changed is our motto, ‘Caring with a Commitment to Quality.’ This has remained our constant guiding principle through it all. It strengthens us, motivates us and inspires us to exceed industry standards.”
Pierre Verger, vice president of assisted living operations, is spearheading this robust transformation. The operational upgrade involves the creation of a dedicated back office to “prioritize what is important for the residents and associates at each location, while streamlining all other processes. The entire team at Spring Hills makes a real difference for our residents. I believe that the executive director has the best seat in the house—in front of our families—and we need to ensure that their time is truly spent in that role,” he said. Each executive director relies on support from the back office, and now they will have access to those services seven days a week. These additional resources will enable the executive directors to devote more of their time directly to their residents, associates and families.
One key improvement in the back office support service upgrade includes the move of each location’s business office manager—who oversees payroll, payables, receivables and company compliance—to the back office. Streamlining these processes has enabled Spring Hills to expand—and as a result, both the census and the revenue have grown by 15%, the communities are fully staffed and entrance has become more exclusive.
With operational functions moved to the back office, executive directors are now able to minimize distractions and ensure that resident, family and associate relationships take precedence. “We prioritize transparency and availability in our leadership team,” Verger added. “We want our executive directors out in the communities interacting with families, residents and associates.” Significant time is allotted for face-to-face interactions, with care coordination meetings held upon move in, biannually and as requested.
The second element of the transformation involves a focus on recruitment and retention. To maximize efficiency, all initial recruitment activities are now remote. Interviews will be coordinated by recruitment and interviewed on-site at the communities. Once hired, new associates can begin remote onboarding and training. This enables a rapid turnaround time and ensures that new staff can join the team quickly.
Spring Hills also made a strategic investment aimed at supporting associates with the implementation of OnShift, a new scheduling and engagement platform. This program improves efficiency, empowers the associates to have control over their schedules and rewards good performance through reward points. All staff members now have their own devices to follow and update records—a significant improvement over the former system, which required moving to a shared kiosk to input updates. This upgrade has produced a 200% increase in the quality of documentation, which is directly related to quality of care. “Making these changes was an adjustment—and, like any change, a bit challenging at first—but the effect was immediate,” said Diana Marks, director of operations efficiency and performance. “Within six months, our communities began to experience increased support and benefits from the changes.”
Furthermore, Spring Hills Signature Touches program has expanded to include Ambassadors of Happiness and Experience. The ambassadors are intentionally focused on the associate, resident and family experience. Spring Hills has always made new residents’ move-in day festive, and celebrated their special occasions. Now, the ambassador is connecting with associates to ensure that important moments in their lives are also recognized. To further advance the company culture, encourage retention and express appreciation for associates, Spring Hills has added a weekly company-wide stand-up meeting, which allows approximately 300 people to applaud community successes. This nurtures friendly competition and inspires associates to be the best for their residents, each other and their supervisors.
“This is really about fostering community, recognizing and appreciating our staff and embracing the idea that a happy associate makes for a happy resident,” Marks added.
The final focus in the organizational transformation is care. Care-related initiatives include elevating care coordination, improving quality of care, integrating mental and physical health, preventing falls and malnutrition and providing non-medicated therapy. To maximize safe and efficient medication protocols, Spring Hills has launched a new partner program, which includes a pharmacy initiative. Through this program, doctors will send prescriptions directly to the pharmacy, greatly reducing risk of errors in transcribing. This innovation also eliminates five to 10 hours of administrative work a month for the nurses, enabling them to focus more meaningfully on direct patient care. Under the new system, doctors and nurses hold weekly care coordination meetings to discuss each resident’s care, which ensures a high level of attention on each individual.
“Senior living is about understanding the needs of the senior community,” said Lesa Scott, RN, vice president of clinical services and compliance. “Our new programs are exciting, but we are not straying from our foundation. We remain committed to understanding our residents’ needs, and we meet them with compassionate and holistic care that can expand and progress as their needs increase over time.”
Above all, the three-part transformation was developed and implemented to enhance the well-being of each resident in assisted living, memory care and independent living through upgrades in operations, recruitment/retention and care. To ensure that these upgrades are succeeding, Spring Hills will conduct ongoing resident, family and associate experience surveys; enhance communication and implement training and mentor programs for optimal engagement with every member of the community. Spring Hills will continue to focus on improvement—2023 goals include forging more partnerships to meet and exceed residents’ needs, and offering in-house clinical and medical services. The company also plans to launch a new luxury collection with Five Star hospitality experiences.