To survive and even thrive in a post-COVID-19 world, operators must harness their expertise in the needs of seniors and build alliances that put them in the center of the healthcare marketplace. That’s according to Bobby Guy, a Nashville-based healthcare attorney at law firm Polsinelli.

“For so many years, seniors housing and skilled nursing have been treated as the red-headed stepchildren of healthcare,” Guy told McKnight’s Business Daily. “COVID-19 has proven that they are core to the healthcare community, however. Operators need to use this opportunity to better integrate themselves into the broader healthcare system.”

That means harnessing the urgency created by the pandemic to establish new referral sources, join new networks and build out needed services that remain scarce, including affordable seniors housing, Guy noted. 

He pointed out that one of the reasons today’s healthcare costs are so high is due to chronic conditions — an area where long-term care operators have tremendous expertise. 

“The senior living and skilled nursing industry manage chronic conditions on an affordable basis all the time,” he said. “My opinion is that a lot of the leadership and models for managing chronic care should be coming out of the senior living and care industry.”

Guy also encourages owners and administrators to consider acquisitions and mergers that will allow operations to withstand pandemic-induced economic pressures. 

“Combinations create the opportunity for synergies and scale, and allow your business to access resources your new partner may already have,” he said. This requires proactive and strategic planning, he added, as well as access the capital. For this reason, he encourages operators to communicate early with their lenders, and not wait until they run out of cash and options to react.

“Your first use of cash must always be to ensure you have the ability to run your operations,” Guy said. “I always tell my clients not to continue to pay long-term debt to the point where they’re out of money and then their lenders can dictate relief.”