Transparency is Key in Assisted Living, Jarvis Says

At this year’s ALFA Conference & Expo, Jeff Jarvis, author of What Would Google Do? brought up an interesting point of view regarding transparency in the assisted living industry. Specifically, Jarvis suggests publishing fee structures on the company website, providing answers to common questions, eligibility criteria and services offered. Industry leaders are now weighing in on this discussion on the ALFA Forum, with differing opinions. Should assisted living facilities publish fee structures online?

On one side of the coin are those who agree with Jarvis. Brian Geyser of CareNetworks, LLC voices his support for transparency, noting that advancements in technology have created a consumer demand for immediate gratification. Today’s consumers expect to find the answers they’re looking for by visiting company websites and reading published information and opinions online. Geyser suggests going the extra mile and spelling out the true costs of living in an assisted living facility. How are the rates calculated? What will a family expect to pay out of pocket in certain situations? What about cost savings in terms of time off work, safety and security, socialization and opportunities for activities.

Flip the coin and you’ll find a totally opposite perspective. Executives from smaller assisted living homes say they don’t publish rates on their website because, without significant contextual information, their rates don’t appear competitive with larger assisted living communities. That’s because, according to this poster, larger companies tend to tack on fees for extra services and supplies, whereas smaller companies may offer rates that are all-inclusive. The standpoint here is that independent facilities could lose potential referrals from consumers; marketing and admissions reps don’t have the opportunity to explain benefits and price structure to consumers who simply opt for the lowest prices. Others point out that the cost of care is a very personalized and individual issue, and the best way to provide an accurate assessment based on services offered and a residents’ needs is for both parties to have a face-to-face discussion and evaluation.

In defense of their position, several executives weigh in suggesting that providing the appropriate amount of context and explanation reduces the odds consumers will be confused or misled. Further, a general fee structure, description of different levels of care, services offered and the needs best served by the facility gives families an idea of what they’ll be getting for their money. A prominent, bold statement noting that the fee structure provided is a guideline and actual costs are individualized based on residents’ needs can serve as a call to action: For an accurate cost/benefit analysis for your loved one’s needs, call us to schedule a tour and a meeting.

What are your thoughts on price transparency? Do the pros outweigh the cons?

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9 Responses to “Transparency is Key in Assisted Living, Jarvis Says”

  1. Angela,

    Conceptually, transparency in any industry is a worthy endeavor and increasingly, health care consumers are becoming better informed. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, some 59% of adults have looked online for some type of health information. We are seeing a generation that wants choices and wants to make those choices in an informed way.

    I certainly understand the concern that there is not a level playing field when it comes to posting information such as fees and services online. However, I do believe that consumers want that information and it’s up to the providers to package that information in such a way that it gives the opportunity for informed choice. The decision for placement in an assisted living facility should not be made via an online experience but rather a personal visit. However, providers might improve their chances of getting that visit by offering up useful information online.

  2. Angela Stringfellow says:

    Hi Craig,

    Thanks for your insightful comments! That’s precisely our perspective on the issue. In order to provide consumers with the instant information they demand in today’s connected world, it might be necessary to go a little more in-depth to position your company favorably against the competition. That’s why great website copy is so important.

    Thanks for weighing in!
    Angela

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  4. Bob Bartleson says:

    Need For Assessment Standards….. There is a wide range of differences between providers of care services in their resident evaluation assessment for charges. Definitions … point systems…. Example: my Mother has a minor sinus condition that her Dr suggested using an over the counter nasal before going to bed. No big deal right … a couple shots of vicks and we’re done. Well the points charge for this shot up the med charge $340 a month … it was considered the same as a critical perscription Asthma rescue inhaler for sudden symptoms. Can the resident bath themselves? Yes if…. they have a bar of soap and a wash clothe …. memory about where the stuff is stored is the issue not whether the person can wash themselves. Also in showering … can they ? Yes but for safety an attendant is probably a good idea. Walking … can they walk unassisted? Yes …. but can they go from point A to B? No they don’t remember how to get there. SO is the definition describing the ability to walk or in needing an escort to get there? The variance between providers on this issue make doing comparisons very difficult. Industry or Government Standards should be created and used.

  5. Bob Bartleson says:

    Increase in Monthly Charges …. I just received a letter from the Executive Director of my Mother’s care facility. It referenced the One Year Anniversary of living at their facility and that because of the increases in the minimum wage, employee wages/benefits, physical plant improvements and insurance costs…. it is necessary to increase the monthly charge 5%! Well I don’t know for sure … but this appears to me to be a slick way to make more money without a factual need. The economy is depressed … the CPI and COLA are flat…. most wages and benefits are frozen …there are no physical improvements to the facility where Mom is … that I can see. (Maybe they’re building a new wing at another facility in another city!) and Insurance rates are pretty stable. SO… what is the truth in the Industry about Annual Increases to Monthly Charges?

  6. Transparency is needed in every aspect of life. It is also applicable in case of assisted living because value for money is very important for everyone. However, in my opinion, the reluctance of small assisted facilities in publishing their rates on their website is legitimate, as people simply go for the cheapest option available rather than weighing the facilities which are being provided

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  8. Aura Pellom says:

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  9. In case you didn’t know Lord Acton who is often attributed with saying the following -Opinions alter, manners change, creeds rise and fall, but the moral laws are written on the table of eternity.

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