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Connection, compassion, and other secrets of success from an award-winning senior-living organization

Ecumen is a nonprofit senior-living organization headquartered in Minnesota, with more than 40 communities spread across several states.

Given such a large organization, it’s a considerable challenge to create a consistently excellent resident experience across the entire brand. The challenge becomes even greater when managing health and safety issues during a public health crisis.

But that’s precisely what Ecumen has managed to achieve.

NRC Health is proud to announce that, for its efforts, Ecumen is the recipient of our 2020 Customer Approved Award.

Unlike other accolades in the industry, this award is granted directly on the basis of feedback from senior-living customers and their families. Winners were selected according to their superior results on NRC Health’s 2020 Resident and Family Member Experience survey.

How did Ecumen achieve such high marks with residents and family members?

In this article, Sue Lee, Ecumen’s SVP and Chief Communications and Marketing Officer, explains how the organization has managed to thrive—even in the face of a pandemic.

Communication and connection

COVID-19 has caused all providers in senior care and housing to reimagine elements of what they do, day-in and day-out, to keep residents safe, be prepared to manage cases of the virus and maintain quality of life.

“The challenges we faced with the pandemic are like none we’ve seen before,” Lee says. “But we’re proud to say that our team members have risen to the occasion, with the singular focus of keeping our residents and team members safe and connected.”

Ecumen took immediate steps to protect its residents from infection. These were both important and commendable.

Perhaps more impressive, however, are the extraordinary lengths the organization went to in order to preserve a sense of connection in its communities.

“Our communities are normally filled with joyful visits from family and friends. When those in-person visits came were paused earlier this year as a safety precaution, many of our residents felt lonely or isolated. At Ecumen, we established a number of new ways to keep residents connected with their loved ones and active doing things they enjoy — both critical pieces to quality of life,” Lee says.

A few of the new connection opportunities:

The Stay Connected Program—Ecumen established an online, digital communications platform that allows residents to schedule Zoom-based visits with family members and loved ones. The program also includes a Spiritual Care component. Over 5,000 virtual visits have been scheduled between residents and their loved ones to date.

Connection Stations—Ecumen, with the partnership of its donors, created 3-sided plexiglass booths in many of its communities that provide residents a wonderful way to safely visit with friends and family.

–  Resident and Family Communications—From the start of precautions and limited visits, Ecumen initiated clear and consistent communications for those they serve, updating on new regulations and actions taken to keep communities safe and healthy.

These steps, and several others, assured both residents and their loved ones that Ecumen was there to care for the families it serves.

Data-driven strategy

Ecumen’s leaders have appreciated NRC Health’s Real-time Feedback solution.

“We’ve used Real-time Feedback to maintain a pulse on how our efforts are being received,” Lee says. “It has been helpful to see that our emphasis on communications has been meaningful to those we serve. By learning what’s most valued in real time, we’ve been able to confirm our practices.

Real-time uses a variety of modalities to solicit resident and family-member input. Responses typically come within hours, not days, which provides leadership with rapid, robust feedback data they can rely on.

Crucially, Real-time’s data is also highly modular and segmented. With it, Ecumen was able to break down the key drivers of satisfaction for each of its service settings.

In assisted living, for example, the most important factors behind resident satisfaction were a sense of security and being treated with courtesy and respect. Among skilled-nursing residents, by contrast, the most important factor was heeding resident choices and preferences.

Understanding these drivers of satisfaction helped Ecumen’s leaders pinpoint opportunities. Now they could better explain, with data-backed precision, what made for a satisfying resident experience.

The resulting success

Ecumen’s emphasis on resident connectedness, and its keen attention to the data, yielded impressive results.

By analyzing resident-feedback comments (which are also derived from Real-time), it’s possible to examine the specific dimensions of Ecumen’s experiential success. The results are remarkable.

The number of positive comments about care-team communication was more than double the number of negative comments. Positive comments about involvement of family members, care-team responsiveness, and information and education outnumbered negative comments by 500%.

Ecumen facilities were also remarked upon for their cleanliness, producing positive comments at nearly four times the rate of negative ones. Administration and reception team members were also particularly well-liked by residents and family members, earning 10 times more positive comments than negative ones.

Aside from these specific domains, there are the global metrics of excellence to consider.

Online, Ecumen communities average 4.37 out of 5 stars. And Ecumen’s organization-wide NPS score of 44.1 handily tops industry averages—which is the factor that earned Ecumen the Customer Approved Award.

Moving forward with vision

As honored as the organization is to have achieved these results, Ecumen’s leaders recognize that this isn’t a time to rest on their laurels.

“We know that the care that we’re providing now, at this time, is more important than ever,” Lee says. “We know we have the capability—and the responsibility—to provide this care, and to simultaneously deliver joy to those we serve.”

That’s an admirable sentiment, and one that leaves no doubt as to how Ecumen has achieved its remarkable results.

Congratulations to Ecumen, and to all of this year’s recipients of a Senior Living Award.

(A full list of award winners can be viewed here.)