We recently celebrated the first anniversary of Icon’s formation — a merger between Caremerge and VoiceFriend. The past year has brought plenty of thrilling changes, including new integrations and new team members, such as Vice President of Growth and Strategy, Michele Saunders, who brings with her 20+ years of experience working in healthcare.
Here, we speak with Michele about her background, what brought her to Icon, the opportunities that lie ahead for senior living leaders, and how our industry can enrich the aging experience for today’s and tomorrow’s older adults.
Q: Before we dive into our discussion about the future of senior living, can you share your background?
A: It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to have always worked in the healthcare industry. I’ve had the unique experience of serving in a variety of roles during my career, offering me a broad perspective of the healthcare landscape as well as a unique skill set.
I spent the first half of my career in the pharmaceutical and medical device industry, and I also became a physical therapist. Over the last 12 years, I’ve been focused on supporting the senior care sector, taking on roles that afforded me the opportunity to make a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of older adults. I’m especially interested in and passionate about senior living; the sector is changing at lightning speed, and it’s exciting to be a part of what happens next!
Q: How does your clinical expertise as a physical therapist inform your approach to senior living?
A: My experience working as a physical therapist has afforded me a valuable boots-on-the-ground perspective. I’m able to empathize with residents, families, and staff on their day-to-day challenges and understand what’s important to them.
Also, as a clinician I focus on how quickly senior living has moved from being purely hospitality-based to a model requiring proactive, comprehensive clinical expertise. Residents’ care and wellness needs have changed, and there is a huge opportunity in senior living for providers and partners to standardize (and optimize!) how to manage risk, higher acuity needs, and preventative wellness.
Q: What hurdles exist to optimizing this opportunity?
A: Ask any senior living leader, and they’ll likely say there are two challenges that are common denominators for almost every operational or strategic initiative:
- Staffing shortages
- Ability to demonstrate ROI for new solutions
Leveraging technology helps operators to clear both hurdles. For example, an all-in-one communication and engagement platform, such as Icon, mitigates staffing challenges by simplifying workflows, maximizing staff output, and ultimately freeing up staff to more easily handle the diverse needs of higher-acuity residents.
Likewise, easily accessible outcomes data via tech platforms inform senior living operators as they grapple with important decisions about the opportunity costs of proactively managing risk, care, and wellness.
Q: What excites you about working at Icon?
A: Icon delivers a much-needed solution for all parties: residents, families, staff, and leadership teams easily overcome the challenges associated with communication and engagement, staffing, reporting, and more. The technology is simple yet sophisticated and best-in-class. I see it as an indispensable solution for senior care providers with a clear ROI.
Additionally, the team members at Icon are at the top of their game. Icon’s CEO, Ryan Galea, has a clear vision for how AI, customizable technology, and experience management can radically improve care delivery and operations for senior living communities, CCRCs, and SNFs. I’m incredibly excited to be a part of this talented team and talk up their suite of solutions as an alternative for providers whose existing technology is falling short of expectations.
Q: What is your perspective on the growing trend of strategic alliances forming between vendors?
A: Especially since the start of the pandemic, healthcare service companies must collaborate for two reasons: (1) to make solutions available that optimize care and service for seniors; and (2) for their own sustainability. Don’t go it alone!
It behooves all companies to link elbows with trustworthy partners to pool resources and bring the best of what they have to offer in support of mutual clients. I believe this is particularly important and advantageous for technology companies.
Partnerships between tech teams and other service delivery vendors (medical, wellness, therapy, concierge care, etc.) will bring much-needed sophisticated outcomes data, reporting, AI, and systems integrations that will continue to elevate care delivery in senior living. As Icon’s VP of Growth and Strategy, I’m looking forward to exploring opportunities for our team on this front.
Q: As it relates to building these strategic partnerships, what must industry leaders keep top-of-mind?
A: It’s important to make connections with like-minded people who prioritize a resident-centric approach and…
- Establish and maintain clear communication channels.
- Define mutually beneficial expectations.
- Provide measurable value for both teams.
No partnership is perfect; there will always be hiccups and challenges. The best alliances are built on transparency and consistent communication where issues can be addressed openly. The effort is worth it. Cultivating meaningful, productive strategic partnerships will be a cornerstone of how senior care continues to evolve and progress in the future.
Q: In addition to leveraging technology and partnerships, what else excites you about the future of senior living?
A: People who work in senior care are among the most passionate and extraordinary professionals around. Attend a conference such as NIC, ASHA or LeadingAge, and attendees are eager to learn, share and, most importantly, ask “what’s new?” and “what’s next?”
This healthcare sector is expanding and will continue to push the envelope on innovation and quality. Icon is well-positioned to be a leader among the industry’s change makers by continuing to deliver savvy communication and engagement solutions and lead the way in developing new and better resources to support senior care organizations of all sizes.
Iconic Technology, Iconic Partnerships, Iconic Aging Experiences
The saying, “you are the company you keep,” doesn’t just apply to people. It also applies to, well, companies. As Michele put it, nobody can go it alone. The senior care industry is facing its fair share of challenges. But there are also clear opportunities waiting for those that can solve those issues. Strong strategic partnerships are necessary to succeed!
That’s what you get with Icon. Dynamic senior living technology. Strategic partnerships. And an unwavering commitment to making the aging experience iconic.To learn more about Icon’s all-in-one engagement and communication platform, shoot us a message!