There is little doubt that analytics has begun to have a profound effect on senior living.

Armed with fresh data points and new ways to consider their potential, operators are inventing and adjusting as never before. As a result, the life expectancy for any senior living concept has never been so short.

Amid the hubbub, a new Almighty has emerged. And its name is Quality.

Talk to any operator, and it won’t take long before you hear “quality” intoned in a highly reverential manner. And that’s not a bad thing. After all, who wants to be affiliated with buildings, services or employees lacking in quality? Especially in a marketing-driven field such as senior living?

But when you press the same people about what they mean by quality, things tend to get squishy. Usually it gets distilled to being “better” than other organizations viewed as the competition. This is not due to deception, or character failings on the part of the person being asked. Rather it reflects an ironic reality: quality is pretty darn hard to quantify.

It tends to be evaluated as being more of, or less of something. Yet we know quality when we see it, don’t we?

Am I saying operators should not think long and hard about delivering quality? Hardly. I’m merely saying that it might not be the best tool for the job.

Perhaps we should start using a different yardstick. My suggestion: Value. For some compelling reasons.

First, unlike quality, value lends itself to measurement. If one facility charges $1,000 less a month than its nearly identical competitor, customers don’t have much trouble determining which is a better value. Same goes for communities that include more services and other perks at the same price point.

The second is that value is a concept that this market deals in all the time. It’s a rare operator who is unaware of the value her or his community delivers. Rarer still is the operator who does not have a clue what customers value.

Finally, and most importantly, it’s where things are going. Look at bundled payments, accountable care organizations and other efforts to change healthcare in America. The architects of these various efforts have the same goal: better value.

There’s no harm in thinking about quality. In fact, it should be baked in to what you do if you plan to stay in business. But if you are not focused on delivering value, then your days probably are numbered. 

John O’Connor is editorial director of McKnight’s Senior Living. Email him at