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The senior living industry has a voice. You can hear it on Bridge the Gap podcast!

Episode 64: Gary Jones

Gary Jones joins Josh and Lucas for a great discussion on technology & insight as a young leader in the industry.

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Lucas: Welcome to Bridge the Gap podcast, the senior living podcast with Josh and Lucas. We are at Senior Living 100 in California in a town that I cannot pronounce, but I know it is the most beautiful place that I’ve ever been and it’s been an exciting time here. Some great thought leadership and content and we have an awesome guest on the show. A good friend of ours, we’d like to welcome Gary Jones, welcome.

Gary: Thank you guys. Glad to be here.

Josh: It’s awesome.

Lucas: So glad you’re here. Gary is, he’s a monster in the gym. He’s got several alter egos, but today he is, he’s going to break it down and keep it nice and even keel for us and just be Gary before he heads to the gym and squats and deadlifts thousands of pounds.

But Gary, you’ve been in the business a little while. You’re one of the rising leaders in the business, which is a great kind of intergenerational mix that we like to have on the podcast is we have some of the OGs and the people that have been the business a long time to share that content with us, and then we have some up and comers. And you’ve been a good friend to us.

Gary, talk to us about your background. What led you to becoming a partner vendor to the senior living industry?

Gary: Yeah, so I’ve been in the industry for about two years now and it’s crazy. Josh and I were just talking just yesterday about how it feels like it’s been five-

Josh: -Or more.

Gary: Yeah, but it just goes to show you how quickly people fall in love with the space because there’s so much opportunity for all different walks of life. I think for me, it’s just been a huge opportunity to talk and kind of live and breathe technology, which is kind of what I’m passionate about, as well as people. So that’s kinda how I got involved in this space is (I) started working for a company that was specific to senior living, which is obviously the case for a lot of companies that are here at some of these conferences. And from there just kind of spun into a love of building relationships and building partnerships with people like you guys.

Josh: Yeah, so, you know, I’m always fascinated. We always get to hear a little bit of what brought people into the industry. So prior life, what led you to the senior living industry?

Gary: So, no real, I didn’t even know this space existed, to be honest with you guys. I was in the nonprofit world before this and at the time I was looking for a job in technology and I have a mentor who was a good friend of mine I grew up with and he worked at Oracle for 30 some years and he knew the owner of this company that was based where I’m from in upstate New York and he said that they were looking to hire somebody in a sales role and the president of the company and I sat down and talked we hit it off. And next thing you know, I’m working there and it’s kind of building out their sales organization. The company’s RCare and we specifically focus on emergency nurse call technology. So, yeah, it’s been, it’s been a whirlwind, but that’s kinda how I got involved in this space.

And literally from there, I don’t know where else I would be today without this, without this industry. So I’m very, very happy to have found it because I feel like it’s going to be like a lifetime career for me.

Josh: Yeah. We’ll, I’ve loved getting to know you over the past couple of years. It does feel like a lot longer and you spent a lot of time just educating me on different everything from UL codes and nurse call and need call. And what’s the difference? Is there a difference? And then we recently started talking about predictive technologies and how that plays into and before we go down that path because it’s like a big topic and a lot of people don’t understand it.

So I met you with RCare, nurse call technology type company. A great company, and then just recently, you have transitioned into something that fits really well and ties in really well. Tell us a little bit about what you’re doing now.

Gary: So now I am actually working at VCPI and that whole kind of relationship started because I think one of the focuses of what we’ve been doing as an organization at RCare is really building out partner relationships. I see that as a huge trend in this industry, just building relationships and partnerships and even for technology, taking that a step further and building integrations with different companies and kind of using that as a platform to work together.

So that’s kind of how our relationship started with the VCPI was we started working with them on a business perspective and it just grew from there where we were working with them on a regular basis. And, even to the point where I was involved in some of their strategic planning meetings in terms of how they were going to manage their partner network, and that’s kinda how I got brought into the organization as we started talking about filling some gaps within their organization.

And they had originally approached me, and I told him I wasn’t looking for another opportunity, but we kind of got talking a little bit further, and here I am now. (I’m) in the process right now, actually, of making a transition from one to the other where I’ll actually be managing the relationship with RCare in my new role would be VCPI, which is what I was doing at RCare was managing the relationship with the VCPI.

Josh: Well, so you’re very equipped to talk about what we want to talk about today, which is really under the topic of technology.

Gary: Yep.

Josh: And some of our, Lucas and I have talked about this. Some of our most downloaded, most viewed episodes have been under the topic of technology. Today we’re going to talk specifically about predictive technology. What in the world does that mean? Why is it important and do just a quick deep dive on that. So give us just a basic understanding. When we say predictive technology, what are we even talking about?

Gary: For sure. Yeah, predictive technology is basically technology that allows providers to be proactive in terms of how they provide care for residents. So historically everyone’s really pretty, been pretty, pretty reactive. So when somebody falls, you’re basically attending to that incident and then you have to file it as an incident. I think with the predictive side of the world, what we’re doing is trying to understand behavior. So we’re trying to understand the behavior of a normal resident, what it looks like at a baseline, and what it looks like when deviation start to occur. So we can actually prevent that fall from happening. So talking about admissions into the hospitals, which is, I know what some of the topics were at the conference here earlier today is talking about some of those things. So how do we understand that? How do we understand the profile? How do, how do we profile residents? So I think that technology and data will allow us to do that, and, specifically, some of this predictive type technology will allow us to really kind of make leaps and bounds forward.

Josh: So a lot of technology has been coming out over the last few years to the point of where I feel like there’s almost a weariness from operators to where it’s like, oh my gosh, what is the next thing coming? You know, what do we need to choose? What is going to be relevant? What’s not relevant? What’s gonna work? What of our staff going to accept and what can I even afford? So walk us through when we are talking about predictive technology, what capabilities and technologies are out there right now that can be consumed by providers in our industry, easily deployed to where it makes their jobs a lot easier in predicting things?

Gary: So, there’s definitely a couple of groups. I think one is the resident safety, which is kind of along the lines of some of that predictive technology that understands physical behavior and patterns and then there’s also the financial as well. So that’s something that, I mean people don’t really talk about but financial platforms have a lot of predictive engines in them as well. A lot of stuff that’s built on artificial intelligence and machine learning, which are those buzzwords your hearing in the industry. So those are some. I think those are probably two, two of the bigger ones that you’re seeing lately, and I think those are ones that people are starting to understand. Okay, what do I do with this? Like, where does it fit into what we’re trying to achieve from, from an owner operator perspective, as well as how does it impact our residents, their families, those kinds of things?

Josh: When I think of technology a lot of times, even though, you know, over time it seems to get as a technology comes out, it becomes more affordable. Is it possible, in your opinion, for the average senior care community to be able to easily implement some of these things? It seems like, you know, used to, when we talked about technology, it was always like, oh geez, you know, I don’t even have the infrastructure to implement this. So just to be able to use this technology, I’ve got to go in and do some radical changes in my building. I mean, what are you seeing that maybe be, that is maybe helping providers be able to implement things more affordably now than maybe they used to be able to?

Gary: That’s a great point. I think that one of the things that you’re starting to see is people are starting to invest in network infrastructure and seeing that as an opportunity to leverage a lot of different things. One of them is marketing to residents and families. Anytime people come into communities these days, they want to know if their mother or father is going to have access to the Internet. So they’re going to be able to go on YouTube, because people are doing that these days, use their Amazon devices, as well as what happens when I want to bring my children to see grandma and grandpa, are they going to have access to the Internet? Are they going to be, are they going to be happy to be there?

So I think that that’s a component that people are starting to realize from a marketing perspective as well as from a business operations perspective. Most of the platforms that people are using today, EHR, resident engagement, emergency call, and nurse call, all those things rely on a network. So you have to have some sort of foundation. So I think that people are starting to see the value and you can actually quantify that ROI. And you can also, some communities also extend that cost to the residents. So it really just depends on how you want to manage it. But I think that that’s the backbone of everything that you do is you have to have some type of network infrastructure and that piece tends to be a good portion of the cost, so once that’s in, there’s a lot you can do from there.

There’s a lot of technologies and implementations that you can, that you can use in your community to leverage what you’ve just built.

Josh: So is that some of the, the energy and the synergy that you guys had at RCare with the VCPI, is that kind of in their genre of what they’ve been doing?

Gary: Sure and that’s kinda what they exactly did with us is we kind of leveraged them to do network assessments to make sure that in communities we were able to leverage our technology to the best of its abilities. So using- and our technology wasn’t just nurse call, it was communication and notification platforms- so making sure that you could use a single device for staff to be able to communicate between each other, whether it’s internally within the organization or externally outside of the organization as well as get information and get an understanding of who needs assistance, when they need assistance, what rounds are like, those kinds of things, as well as any other applications you might be using on that technology. So we leverage them for that exact thing.

Lucas: Well, and I remember you know, five, eight years ago, it was very common for buildings and communities not to have WiFi. I mean that was just that recently, so I think even five, eight years later, it’s more common. But Josh, you and I had a conversation about it with an investor in California was looking at an a building that did not have WiFi and so all of their records were done handwritten on paper, everything. How prevalent is this in the industry and then how much of a barrier to technology can that be?

Gary: Yeah, it definitely is still- it’s, it’s out there. There’s communities out there that are not, that don’t have any means to technology, whether they don’t have the capital or they don’t see the value and they’re doing a lot of things manually. I think the real value is you’re, you’re creating efficiencies within the environment where people live and work every single day and you want to make their jobs easier so they can do what they’re there for and that’s providing care for the residents.

So I think that once you start to peel back the onion, you start to understand why there’s value there and I think that you’re starting to see a lot more people just make that investment as, as status quo. It’s like, it’s what we need to do when we’re, we’re building a community or if we’re acquiring, we got to do an assessment to understand what the current infrastructure looks like. Are there gaps? Are there things that we can do to implement or improve? And then you talk into the world of cybersecurity and all those other kinds of things, which are scary for a lot of people to even think about.

Josh: They are scary. Well, we were just talking with a guest not long ago on our show and they were talking and raising the point that how much of the inventory and senior housing currently is 15 to 20 years old and most of those systems were before Wifi was prevalent, everything was hardwired. And I have been amazed, even with some of the recent acquisitions and management where we’re going into older communities, some of the technology even on the wireless side where everything’s wireless now. So even getting, you know, the wireless network into your community is not as cumbersome and quite as costly as it used to be just a few years ago. But if I, if I’m hearing you correctly, to use the great predictive technologies, the backbone of all that is a strong network within the community, correct?

Gary: For sure. Absolutely.

Josh: So an overall assessment of the community, if someone’s looking at how should I get started would be, hey, you know, get with a group, get with a consultant team to analyze the backbone to make sure that you’ve even got the infrastructure-

Gary: -Exactly.

Josh: -to look at that. But then what would you say, again, there’s so many technologies. Every time I go to one of these conferences, one, it’s amazing and all the technology that’s coming in that’s exciting, but it does make your head spin a little bit. And you’re thinking, is this product similar to this product? What’s the difference? So what would be your advice to that operator where you can’t go out and do everything all at once, but what’s a strategy for determining what you need and where you should start?

Gary: Yeah, I think that understanding what they want to achieve, if they’re looking at technology, looking at improving resident care, are they looking at improving staff workflows and efficiencies? And then from there understanding, okay, I’m going to break it into one of these, one of these buckets and then understanding what technology currently exists out there that can fit within that, and what their peers are using.

I mean, we have such a huge network of providers and owners where people are, are spearheading technology use within senior living and seniors housing. I think that it makes sense to, to talk with, an unbiased party which could be a peer, and then work backwards from there and figure out what companies they can work with to help from a consulting perspective to understand what those needs are at a deeper level and then present them with some options that might be in line with where they are from a financial perspective as well.

Josh: Great Advice. So switching gears here a little bit, maybe away from predictive technology, but realizing you’ve kind of have gotten a real quick pulse on the industry. You get to talk with a lot of different partners. You talk to a ton of operators. So, what’s some of the most exciting things that you can say for our listeners that don’t know a whole lot about senior living like you, just a couple of years ago. So this is really new, relatively new, but you’re like a seasoned pro now. So I mean, what would you be selling some of our listeners that maybe are in college or maybe they’re looking for a second career and stumbling upon our podcast? What is most exciting about our industry? Just speak to that audience a little bit.

Gary: This, this industry is, I mean, it’s ripe for, I mean, we were just talking about in the conference how they’re creating a consortium to really kind of, and some of the stuff that you’ve been doing honestly, within Solinity is taking a different approach to seniors housing because we’re only tapping into what, 5% of market penetration? So there’s a huge opportunity to really focus in on folks that are going to need a place to live and you’re going to need communities to provide care for them. So taking that and then allowing people to come in that are from not even within the industry to really allow us to spearhead that and think outside of the box. I think that we’re going to need, we need, we do, we need people from outside the industry to, to cultivate change, and that’s gonna allow us to really grow to the point where we could get towards 50 to 60% of penetration of the current seniors that are out there today.

Josh: Well, that’s amazing. And we were talking actually today, earlier today with one of the most veteran senior living guys around, Larry Cohen. Such an exciting guy to talk to. But one of the things he was saying, and I often times think of you and Lucas and our producer Sara, and just a lot of people that we have a great time getting to know in the industry that we’ve got to bring fun back to the industry. People need to have fun. And Larry picked up on that because he, he was talking about how stressful our work is and how stressful work is for an operator. It really is. And the dynamic changes. And I said, yeah, you know, it really is, but we have a blast. And if we didn’t have so much fun, it wouldn’t be tolerable. Right?

Gary: Of course.

Josh: But so I think that is really one of the most exciting messages because I think traditionally our industry has kind of had this perception that, you know, it’s only a place where old people live to kind of go die. But it’s really exciting. These cutting edge communities are becoming a place where people live, are living vibrantly and the work environment is becoming an a not only an extremely rewarding environment, but it’s being filled with personalities like you guys, that are bringing a whole lot of youth and energy. And so, you know, that’s something that it’s really exciting to find out that just as soon as two years ago, you didn’t know anything about this industry and now you’re, you’re on the podcast. So it’s really super exciting.

Lucas: Well, and I think, you know, Larry is modeling that fun even, you know, decades later in the business. It’s so reassuring for us as younger people rising leaders to look at, you know, people like that and just say they’re still having fun. Imagine the complexities of, you know, being CEO and chairman of publicly traded things and, you know, that that penetration, that 5% that we’re talking about,  and I encounter people in outside of the industry, either on social or just in my daily walk and there’s, because I’m always questioning and wondering what they’re, what’s the narrative that they think of? And it’s typically some type of a negative connotation that once I’m able to unpack for them, their eyes open and start to see it. Yes, I think that the home is the biggest competitor to senior living.

And I think I could probably speak for all of us is that we’re, we’re pro-senior. If you want to live at home, great. If you want to live in a community, great.

Gary: Of course.

Lucas: But then there’s this thought process that people are looking at the longterm trail is that the acuity levels of an older adult or an aging adult that may be technology has kept them in their home longer, but it’s caused them to be a little bit more socially isolated. It’s also caused them to have an acute event where if possibly, potentially if they could have gone into a congregate care into a community setting earlier, a month earlier, a year earlier, maybe could have avoided that fall and could have prolonged that person’s life and vitality for many more years.

You know, that’s something that I think the industry is looking at and I mean technology, maybe it kept them in their home, but maybe it’s helping them in their community with this predictive analytics.

Josh: I think so. So to your point, and I was going to ask you about this because what Lucas was saying just brought up a really relevant point. So it seems like so much of the predictive technology that I’m seeing, it’s not, as long as there is a wireless IT network infrastructure in these communities, it’s something that it doesn’t have to necessarily be one size fits all. But there’s all these different mix and match based on the, the residents, the consumers’ preferences, what we’re really thinking might be the issues. But can some of that application on the technology we’re seeing in senior housing, can it also be applied in the consumer’s residency even before they make it to us?

Gary: Of course, of course. And that’s a great point because that’s what some of the technology out there does. There’s platforms out there that monitor residents in the community and congregate living but also an extension of their platform is for at home. So they have at home versions of the same technology and what they’re doing is they’re understanding those exact behaviors. So, um, yes, I’m understanding whether somebody might be at risk of falling, but maybe I’m also understanding whether somebody is socially isolated. So understanding those things allows us to really prevent those situations from occurring.

And II think the great opportunity for a lot of providers is when you start branching out to moving away from strictly congregate living and talking about home health, you could create a technology extension for your customer base that lives at home and understanding when they might need congregate care and you’d basically be there ready for them to, to accept them into one of your communities.

Josh: I love that. So, you know, I think that’s where our industry is really different because I think, I’m just going to guess on this and make a statement, but I think a lot of other industries and verticals, they would almost view that technology and even talking about that as being too much of a threat because, oh whoa, we’re not going to try to keep them at home. But I feel like that is where our industry is extremely creative and we, we know that, you know, we want what’s best for the resident. And ultimately if that’s best, an application in their home, we can still help them with that there and then when they need or want our services, we can bring that technology right into our infrastructure.

So love that point that was just made and I think that’s, to your point, Gary, that’s a great opportunity if providers, operators, owners are not currently looking at strategies that are outside of their four walls-

Gary- 100%-

Josh: -and how they can integrate, um, then, then I think they’re going to be left behind over the next few years.

Gary: Of course. You’ve gotta be- and this goes back to bringing different people that are not within the industry into this industry is they’re thinking like that they’re thinking outside of the box. I think the big thing, too, is you got to think like the consumer because everyone is a consumer these days. So I’m talking about like what they were talking about on the panel earlier is you got to move away from the current status quo and looking at different ways we can disrupt. So I think part of it is just, it’s breaking it down and being simple. Think like a consumer. If you were getting ready to go into a community, what would you be looking at? So kind of breaking it back to even the basic points. But yeah, the technology piece within the community, within the resident home is definitely a huge component that truthfully to me is a game changer. If you’re on top of that today, you’re going to set yourself apart in the next three to five years. 100%.

Josh: Well, as we wrap up the show, you know, one of the things that I’ve loved getting to know you is one, you’re in sales. And I know a lot of us, you know, we think sales and we think, oh my gosh, every time somebody like that it’s calling you, they’re trying to sell you something. But I’ve never felt like that with you, and you’ve always just been a great resource and you just point me in the right direction-

Gary: -appreciate that.

Josh: -whether that’s with your company that you’re representing or another partner company. And that’s what our industry is all about. So we will be in our show notes, connecting our audience to you and to your organization. And we would love for our audience to reach out to you with, because there we’ve just kind of scratched the surface and these are long, in-depth conversations, but it’s conversations that are relevant that all operators need to be having, all owners, anybody that’s, whether you’re looking at acquiring a community, whether you’re looking at developing a community, this is not the future, it’s the now.

Lucas: It’s the current state.

Josh: Yeah, so absolutely. Connect with Gary and be looking at our show notes and our website. Super great show today. Awesome.

Lucas: Yeah, excellent show. BTG nation, you can go to btgvoice.com. Pick up all the show notes there, connect to us on social. We’ll make sure that we will package this up nice to you. We’ll get out on all our social media channels, connect to Gary, and so you can have access and ask questions we want to engage with you. We appreciate it so much, Gary. Thank you. Have a great conference.

Gary: Thank you guys. Appreciate it.

Lucas: Safe travels back home and thank you for listening to another great episode of Bridge the Gap.

Thank you to our supporting partners NHI, RCare, NRC Health, TSOLife, ERDMAN and Sherpa.

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Episode 64: Gary Jones