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The Leaders Perspective: Family Caregivers – The Missing Social Determinant of Care

Wednesday, July 10, 2019
Anthony Cirillo


DistilNFO had an opportunity to interview Anthony Cirillo, FACHE, ABC. Anthony is president of The Aging Experience. He helps health organizations craft experiences and seize opportunities in the mature marketplace. He helps family caregivers thrive and individuals make educated aging decisions. A consultant and professional speaker, Anthony is a monthly contributor on The Charlotte Today program, a contributor to US News and World Report.


There are some 45 million family caregivers in the U.S. Twenty-five percent are Millennials. Caregiving in the workforce is becoming a big retention issue with a Harvard study showing 32 percent of top management leave because of caregiver responsibilities. This is particularly acute in the health care arena where you have paid caregivers by day who are also family caregivers by night. Adding to the strain on the health care system is the failure of providers to acknowledge and engage the family caregivers of patients. We talk with health and aging expert Anthony Cirillo.


1. Anthony, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us. DistilNFO appreciates it!


To start with, tell us about yourself, your career journey so far and your company. What are the key traits that made you successful in your roles?


Anthony: I started out as a hospital executive in Philadelphia and have been in healthcare for more than 30 years. I have been a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives for most of that time. But I also had a parallel career as a professional singer. And when I tired of nightclubs and casinos I started to entertain in senior care. And that changed the passion and trajectory of my career to where I now focus exclusively on aging and caregiving issues. I have been blessed with some God-given talents such as my writing ability and my voice. But that does not guarantee success. What I have found is that I am tenacious and never stop reaching and reinventing. I do have an intuitive sense for anticipating health care trends and actually helped to start the patient experience movement with a seminal article that informed the Cleveland Clinic’s journey when opening their office of the patient experience. I am able to connect the dots for clients in my consulting and speaking since I have worked in all aspects of healthcare. My passion for caregiving arose through my own personal caregiving journey. I soon realized that caregiving is the elephant in the room issue that corporations and health providers need to address.


2. Tell us about the Company’s Healthcare practice and successes. What is the most exciting thing you and your team are working on?


Anthony: We recently produced a Caregiver Smile Summit, a series of video interviews with experts in the field in 12 categories of topics that cover the life-cycle of caregiving. The Summit is on-demand and can be watched on your own timetable. The Summit was short-listed in an IDEO Dementia Caregiver Challenge, sponsored by AARP and United Health. We now have close to 130 videos. These have become part of a complete caregiver offering from a firm in which I am a partner called Global Institutional Solutions. We have a suite of caregiver services including personally-matched advocates, information resources, videos, and so much more that are helping more than five million family caregivers. We are currently working with major health systems in which we have introduced a caregiver offering tailored to primary care practices in which physicians can provide family caregivers with these resources. Research has shown that only one in three physicians ask for caregiver input into care and only one in six ask the caregiver about their own health. Our tools address caregiver health, the social determinants of care and actually can help prevent 30-day readmissions as we address acute and chronic disease conditions with specific, actionable and simplified information to improve caregiver health and their ability to care for their loved one.


3. Health care industry is in transition, there is a lot of uncertainty due to change in administration. What is your advice to health care executives during these times of change?


Anthony: I joke that I have had to reinvent myself more times than Madonna. But the truth is that you do. But there is no need to be blind-sided. I helped create the patient experience movement because I was always surveilling the environment and looking for trends. I simply took the next logical leap in thinking. Also, the older you get, the more you become stuck in your ways. So, it is imperative to keep up on new skills and abilities. Last year I was named a “Mover and Shaker” in the Social Shake Up’s list of influencers and that was not just in healthcare but all industries. If you peruse the list, you will notice I am one of the more “mature” influencers. Still, I can run circles around a lot of people when it comes to being an influencer. An influencer also implies a pretty vast network of connections and of course, that is key to any reinvention.


4. Technology is impacting every aspect of Health care, what are the top technologies that you think will have the most impact on the industry and why?


Anthony: Clearly in the space I play in, AI is emerging. I am working with a company called Brio that is leveraging Alexa and other emerging services to aid aging in place. That is a new generation of interactivity that just don’t passively monitor people but engages them. Social isolation is so prevalent among older adults (and surprisingly across ages) and these new technologies are helping to engage people.


5. The amount of data generated in healthcare is increasing exponentially, what is the best way for health care companies to address data complexities to enable business outcomes?


Anthony: I think there are two sides to this. First, IT vulnerability is a real threat to companies and especially healthcare companies. And that impacts patients. So first, protecting the data is paramount and healthcare has not been immune to attacks. And while I am not an IT professional, all the data that organizations gather should be used to focus care with an eye not only toward population health management but also to an understanding of everything else that impacts the care of a patient. Social determinants of care are hugely important, maybe more so than the actual provision of medical care. A recent study revealed that food insecurity is growing among aging baby boomers. Focus the data on finding out the core issues that need to be addressed and don’t complicate it by agonizing over the data. Create simple dashboards and work to create a better health care system for patients and their family caregivers. And this impacts the financial side of the health care system, which is woefully complex, redundant and a source of stress for patients and their caregivers. Stress impacts health!


6. Innovation is the key to transforming the health care industry. How do you source, select and execute on ideas for your clients? How can health care professional drive innovation in their organizations?


Anthony: It first starts with culture. Healthcare is notorious for the not invented here syndrome so I will not work with clients whose cultures permeate with that thinking. My approach is to look for the best solution in all industries facing similar challenges. Marketing is marketing. Customer experience is customer experience. There are best practices outside the healthcare realm. The challenge is then to adapt them for a healthcare setting. That is how my Caregiver Summit was created. I found the idea of virtual summits in other industries and thought that is something that we can bring to healthcare. Similarly, because of my passion for music, which led to my calling in aging, I have found ways to entertain people through streaming concerts. This technology already exists. No one is using it in the senior space.


7. What are the top services your Company provides?


Anthony: Comprehensive solutions for companies to address the growing issue of family caregivers in the workforce. We have turnkey solutions that help people proactively plan for aging while taking care of their own health and being a better caregiver to their loved one. We also provide a digital vault to help people organize their life and be prepared for any emergency. I personally speak in the industry both motivationally and from a domain expertise. I help connect the dots as I have worked in long-term care, hospitals, insurers and have been a family caregiver myself. And I use music and song to tie it all together, bringing joy while helping people retain information. Finally consulting in the health care arena in strategy, marketing, and customer experience is a core expertise.


8. What would be your call to action to our subscriber base of Aging?


Anthony: Well my message is simple. Whether you work in the industry or are a consumer of its products and services, prepare for your aging – physically, emotionally, and financially – sooner in life. There is no need for all aging issues to be crisis-driven. We can proactively prepare, which helps us to better cope when situations arise.


9. Any closing thoughts you would like to share with our readers?


Anthony: I urge people to pay attention to the elephant in the room – the plight of family caregivers. They are secretly suffering, often afraid to self-identify for risk of losing their jobs. We need to help them take care of themselves and those whom they care for. Too many family caregivers predecease the one they are caring for and I should know. My sister passed while caring for mom. That is when my financial caregiving help turned into hands-on caregiving. It was stressful but also one of the most fulfilling times of my life.


Date: July 01, 2019

Tags: communication, career, technology, perspective
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