Tracking Occupancy Trends: From Marketing to Move-Ins/Outs
By Jeannette Rodgers, Sr. Business Development Executive/Senior Living
Capacity, Occupancy, Census and Projections, Scheduled, Actuals
In senior housing, occupancy drives everything!
Occupancy is the driver to revenue. Revenue provides the labor. Labor provides the care, services and maintenance necessary for a stable home for your residents. So, what drives occupancy?
Data, Data, Data! Without first having data to analyze trends, demographics, market rates, actual rates, and the needs and interests of older adults, it will be more challenging to reach potential residents for occupancy.
How does it all begin?
Without residents, your building remains a building.
When it is occupied with residents, it becomes a home!
CAPACITY, OCCUPANCY, CENSUS
Most would consider this self-explanatory but somehow amidst the immeasurable number of senior housing organizations this language of capacity, occupancy and census has been twisted leaving every level of leadership asking, “How do you define these terms in your community?”
Normalizing the language of capacity, occupancy and census would help the industry altogether when reporting occupancy trends and analyzing budgets, actuals and variances to achieve initiatives in sales and marketing. For the purposes of respecting residents and protecting their dignity, commonly used language such as knobs and noses, heads and beds, handles and heartbeats and other such phrases will not be used here since it creates a depersonalized mentality and adds to the confusion of capacity, occupancy and census. They are residents living in private or shared units in different types of environments (Active, Independent, Assisted, and Skilled Nursing). It’s that simple!
- CAPACITY: The number of physical units (single point of entry) in the building.
- Capacity should only be adjusted if a unit is repurposed for other use (salon, storage room, office, etc.) or additional units are built on.
- OCCUPANCY: The number of units occupied from the capacity.
- CENSUS: The number of residents living in those occupied units.
- Financial Census-The number of residents financially responsible for occupying the unit. There are times where a resident pays before they physically arrive. And there are times when a resident moves but still has financial obligation.
- Physical Census-The number of residents physically present in the building. Residents may be visiting family, in the hospital, rehab and other factors. They are temporarily out of the building. This is important for labor, care, safety, dining etc.
Capacity, Occupancy and Census can be viewed in the same way the US Census Bureau conducts its surveys.
- First, data is collected on how many houses there are in neighborhood. The houses built in a neighborhood are considered CAPACITY. For senior housing these are the physical units (apts, suites, etc.) that are available. Capacity is the true sense of how many spaces you have to occupy.
- Next, they determine how many houses are occupied (OCCUPANCY).
- Further, CENSUS determines how many occupants live in those occupied homes.
- Finally, what is the relationship of the occupants? In senior housing this relates to a second person living in the same unit.
- An unrelated couple is considered a shared unit.
- A related couple is considered a companion unit (When it is a companion unit, it is helpful to use Primary for the individual who needs the specific environment or the individual needing the most care and the other resident is secondary).
- The rent and care rates may vary based on the individual’s care and services.
If one lease is provided for a related couple, then financial census would be one. If you are providing an individual lease for each resident (regardless of relationship) financial census would be two.
Capacity, Occupancy and Census are metrics that are measured for strategic decision making. There is great importance of timely data input for timely reporting and planning of marketing efforts and reaching families in need.
Marketing should be viewed as “What can we do to reach that family in need”? A mentor in the industry would often say, “We are saving lives”!
MARKETING: Residents struggle with the thought of moving, fear of losing their independence, and downsizing. At the same time, they seek and need socialization, care, medication management, life safety oversight and security. Their families struggle with guilt and uncertainty wondering if they can provide the care for their loved one on their own or if they should trust others to provide the essential needs and interests of their loved one. They need your guidance through the process.
Marketing efforts should be focused on how you let families know you’re there for them. Some will come to your community; some will reach out to referral services and some will just hear about you. Whichever the method, once the connection is made, you can start the process of tracking the progression of the relationship. Aside from the joy it brings knowing you’re helping a family, there are administrative tasks that need to be tracked as you move the process along. Communication and tracking data are key!
To begin that process of tracking, the data should be entered into your CRM or alternative method as timely as possible. Your internal team will be waiting to hear about the new family you’re communicating with if they haven’t already met with them on a physical or virtual tour. Is the lead source entered, is the family info in the CRM, are the next action steps outlined? Remember to document notes in the CRM as if someone had to pick up the ball for you.
This data is vital to tracking trends and the efforts you are making with the family. It helps to know what works and what doesn’t. What helped the family along, what could be done differently and how can we learn and grow?
Here are a few challenges decision makers face when needing accurate data
to make effective, time efficient and strategic decisions in a very competitive market.
PROJECTIONS: Based on “historical data” and “statistics, you’ve learned the averages of how many residents may move in or out in a month.
- For move-ins:
- Residents are in need of care, socialization, great food, amazing dining experience, medication management, assistance with daily living and other services. Projecting data for move-ins helps with gauging time frames based on events (such as the pandemic, seasons, holidays, rehab recovery, respite for family and other factors).
- For move-outs:
- Residents may move back home or away with family, declining health, transfer to skilled nursing for advanced care, dissatisfaction, financial issues or someone passing away.
You make these projections to strategically meet the budgeted expectancy. You can only rely on historical data if it was in fact entered into your CRM in the first place. No history to look back on if there is no data.
- Are projections being discussed and tracked?
- What are the projections for move-ins/outs for the month?
Tracking projections is a strategic method that requires communication, data input and consolidating data for decisions. There should always be projections for move-ins and outs to give an idea of what is anticipated. It’s like preparing for a bad storm or planning for a wedding.
If each community is projecting how many move-ins and outs the community may have, operators can rely on automated data gathering software that integrates that data for each community and roll it up for a portfolio view to see all projections for the company. That starts with prompt input of vital information at the beginning and throughout the marketing process. Everything depends on that initial input of data. Actual data relies on the data that has been entered. Get credit for your work!
Having analytics and data for reporting and maintaining successful operations of a portfolio begins with having data entered correctly and timely. Entering those projections serves a multitude of factors.
- For move outs: It allows time to communicate with families who are moving from dissatisfaction, financial duress or guilt. Projected move-outs give you time to assess why someone is thinking about moving out. Unless it is because a resident is transitioning on, often families need to be heard and issues can be resolved. It is overwhelming for a family to move their loved one. Often, residents decline rapidly after a significant change to their environment.
- Projected move-ins motivate the Marketing Director to look at methods of meeting that goal or brainstorming with the team on various efforts to reach families. A projection can also be based on your communication with a potential family and resident that has shown interest. Remember those creative follow-ups.
For the scheduled move-in, you’ve already tracked your marketing efforts and your scheduled move-in is likely to have shown on your projections. Marketing efforts have led you to a new resident scheduling their move-in and the family has left a deposit on apartment 123.
The excitement is looming in the community and your census is about to increase. You’re about to help another family by providing care and services for their loved one. Now, it’s time to further collaborate with the rest of the team. The Executive Director, Clinical, Social Programming, Dining, and Maintenance need to be in the loop. You are close to handing off the baton to the team so you can move your efforts forward by helping your next family.
The Nursing Director will “schedule” a preliminary clinical assessment of the care and needs for the resident and ensure care needs can be met. The Social Director will meet with family and resident to review calendars, events and how the resident will thrive with an active daily life understanding their interests and limitations (Life Stories). The Dining Director will talk about nutritional needs, food preferences, dining times and menus. This “scheduled move-in” process helps the resident and family build a connection with the team and the residents’ slowly adapt to their new home (your community).
Was there a competitive rate given, an incentive, the deposit payment given to accounting? Is maintenance using a software system to track rent readiness? The projected move in should be transferred to the scheduled move-in to track the time and labor spent on the progress. Your moving the family along to their actual move-in.
Remember this is a team effort and each Director must enter their specific data to track apartment readiness, accounting needs to track deposits and financial payment of rent and future admission criteria. Clinical also needs to track preliminary assessment, and care plan, schedules for care, medication management and other needs. Dining should prepare to add to their food ordering to increase their meal portions. This is all vital information to the process of providing quality care and services for your upcoming resident.
Simply put, one cannot measure any of the metrics if the data is not entered accurately and timely. Bypassing data will negatively affect operations along with quality care and services for the resident. The entire team should be managing their data input for strategic decision making because data is the driver to every decision.
Hopefully, you are relying on automated data gathering in a cloud-based environment so it is updated in real-time for the decision maker to see the scheduled move-in data right away. The same for move-outs, when you receive that vacate notice or notice that a resident has passed on, enter the data. It is likely that you were already aware that a resident was in need of skilled nursing, transitioning, or the family was facing financial challenges and that would have started at the projection phase. Scheduled events are important to be aware of for accounting (both for the community and the family), preparedness for assisting with movement in the community, tracking the readiness of the apartment or assessing the move out condition and assisting the family with closure. Senior living software management can be a great tool for accurate, real time data that consolidates information from all the software programs in a community.
Finally, the resident’s data will move from the CRM to the accounting and clinical systems used for resident account management. It is likely that nursing and accounting have already entered preliminary information into their department’s software programs with a designated unit number and other data from the scheduled point of the process. The historical data of the marketing activity is important with understanding the labor, time and efforts given in helping that family move through the process. Through your marketing efforts it is important to follow through in tracking projections to scheduled to actual.
- For a move-in, the entire team should know a new resident has chosen your community as their home. Each community director has a part in the admission process. Entering data into the various departmental software programs is crucial for future projections and analytics for the processes and strategic decision-making that lends to continued growth of the portfolio. A happy resident is your organic lead to other move-ins.
- For a move-out, it is imperative that the notice date is accurately entered in a timely manner. Internal teams should work together to make the announcement of the actual move out, close out the resident’s account, clinical will follow their protocol for resident move-out and finally thank the family for trusting you with their loved one and follow up with them after they’ve moved. Always follow-up with the family who has moved out, regardless of how the exit occurred.
MEASURING THE METRICS
With all of these metrics in place, the portfolio of communities can continue measuring those metrics with key performance indicators such as the number of occupied units (Occupancy) against capacity (number of physical units) and number of residents (financially obligated and/or physically present, known as Census) against occupancy and/or capacity. Measuring these metrics from the beginning of the marketing process through the progression of the resident journey at your community will lead to overall operational efficiencies.
Considering all of the disparate software programs used across departments in a community and the immeasurable time taken for manually gathering and compiling analytics and reports, organizations are leaning on senior living software management and business intelligence solutions that offer a portfolio view of data and analytics that are collecting by automation to create visual dashboards and customized reports with real time results in a cloud-based environment. It is essential that leaders have accurate, purpose driven data to make effective and strategic decisions to maintain optimal operations for all communities within the portfolio.
Remember, enter those metrics so they can be measured! Use technology to your advantage!
Innovative technology increases productivity in less time with greater efficiency,
allowing for more time with residents, families, team members and celebrating success!