Leaders discuss Louisville’s destiny in the aging care industry

By Ben Keeton

Aging care is an important component of the overall healthcare system.  It is also one of the areas where our region excels.  With a cluster of companies focused on Aging Innovation, the future of aging care is being set in our community. To explore what aging innovation means, we spoke with several local healthcare leaders for their perspective.

Medical News: What does aging innovation mean to you, and how will it affect the healthcare sector?


Leigh Ann Barney

CEO, Trilogy Health Services

For me, aging innovation has many separate components. It’s not a single program or initiative – it involves all aspects of senior care, from lifestyle programming to clinical care. Providers must be innovative across the board if they want to succeed.

Baby boomers are very tech-savvy. As they enter the marketplace, they will be searching for providers who offer programs and technology that support their personal preferences and enhance their lifestyle. There are also many opportunities to be innovative in Alzheimer’s and dementia care. The knowledge we have now about the disease will lead to innovations in the way we care for those with memory loss.

In the skilled nursing sector, we are caring for more acute patients than ever before. We need to be at the top of our game when it comes to clinical technology. I think you will see many providers investing in in-house clinical services like labs and x-rays, as well as additional trainings for their employees. As you innovate, it’s important that you give your employees the education they need to provide the best care.



Kiel Dowlin

President, Family Directed – HomeHero

I don’t like to think of it as “aging innovation.” What we are doing is “living innovation.” We are empowering individuals to live the life they desire. Whether we are improving the quality of in-home care, modernizing appliances for safer use, or introducing new communications technology to reach clinical teams, we are giving people the opportunity to choose how they live. Who we serve just happens to be a little older.

The home will continue to be a focal point for healthcare. As we all contribute to living innovation, I’m confident we will not only see improved health outcomes but a more vibrant segment of our population.



Patrick Henshaw


Innovation in aging is absolutely critical, as 20 percent of the U.S. population will be 65 or older by 2030. We have a responsibility as a community to find creative solutions to issues we know are imminent.  Louisville is home to a particularly diverse and dense cluster of healthcare businesses representing every step along the continuum of care.  LEAP has a unique opportunity to leverage this strength as we work with our partners across the region to identify innovative approaches to pressing challenges in healthcare related to an aging demographic.



Phil Marshall
President and CEO, Hosparus Health

As people live longer with more complex and chronic conditions, it is essential delivery, care and reimbursement models will need to adapt and innovate to serve this growing patient trend.

Aging innovation or innovation in aging, contemplates scalable best practices that enable our population to move seamlessly across a continuum of care which aligns with an individual’s healthcare needs as they naturally move from good health, to restorative health, to palliative care, to advanced illness care and until their last breath.

These innovations will undoubtedly affect our healthcare sector by successfully and sustainably meeting the demands of a growing number of aging people, all whom deserve dignity and respect in all stages of care.



Arif Nazir, MD

Chief Medical Officer, Signature HealthCARE

Aging innovation is not just about technology but entails a change in culture about how we approach aging as a concept. We must change the mindset that associates aging with disability, dependency and despair. Once we have embraced fresh attitudes about aging, only then technological and innovative frameworks will empower the aging communities to continue to add value to the society.

Investing in aging innovation is not only the right healthcare strategy but also the right business strategy as billions of dollars are and will continue to be invested in this sector.

At Signature, aging innovation has been one of our three pillars and has been in the center of our strategic conversations for years. Our innovative approaches to person-centered models of care, resident vacation, senior Olympics, use of virtual tools for rehabilitation etc. are just some of the many examples on how we have used innovation to upgrade the attitudes around aging.



Dianne Timmering

Healthcare Leader, Strategist, American Journalist, Entrepreneur

Aging is not a local or national issue, it is a global one, maybe even an on-coming crisis. And any good crisis needs a ground zero, strategic design, tactical plan and forecasts and solutions. Innovation has defined world history, nations, economies, wars, revolutions, and now it must be deployed to address the aging, because that is what’s happening—all over the world.

We are aging, and I mean this in a good way, (11,000/day turning 65 just in U.S.) and, with such an exaggeration of human volume, “innovations” will be needed to meet the mercurial qualities of reimbursement, the commodity of healthcare access, and the ubiquitously defined “value prop,” not to mention the deep agony associated with chronic conditions.

Aging innovation: is it desires of the heart, a wish list, or should it be defined by need—anything that solves–“efficienizing” the continuum of care, uncorking the reservoir of interoperability, addressing sickness, pursuits of wellness, cures for cancer? Or perhaps it can be defined as the bells and whistles of virtual reality goggles whisking a wheel-bound elder into a better state of being, the prevention of a fall with the technology of an exoskeleton, the rural care delivery bounty of telemedicine, or innovative solutions of housing for a “forgotten middle” who can no longer live in their homes independently, or have no home at all.

Innovations to meet the tailored demands of this boomer juggernaut, many of whom will have buying power, may still be “trumped” by the rudimentary considerations of social determinants of health and economic pressures of government in addition to the aging consumer want and need. What they want may simply differ from what they need, especially when considering the chronic disease chart (heat disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes) with 80 percent of older adults with one or more and many with at least two. This disproportionate share of dollars needed to be spent on the highest levels of chronic disease may force what is considered innovation into real solutions of healing.

That’s where aging innovation can step into the framework of 5G advancements with the aggregation of data, a mechanism to prove the efficacy of machine learning otherwise known as Artificial Intelligence—an I-Cloud based predictive modeling system centered around specific disease states and precision medicine to be administered resulting in the reduced costs of prevention, healthcare efficiencies, and the value prop of a better outcome resulting in true healthcare consumerism, and the only real healthcare choice there is—to be well. Maybe one way to define aging innovation is an international database of cures.


Medical News: How are you contributing in making Louisville the epicenter of aging innovation?

Leigh Ann Barney, CEO, Trilogy Health Services

We’re always looking for the next service or piece of technology that can improve the way we care for our residents. Right now, we’re piloting a telehealth program in several of our communities. We’re also investing in virtual reality, voice-powered assistants, incontinence and personal monitoring, and we offer e-learning platforms to our employees. If we feel it adds value to the resident or employee experience, we’ll try it. In the future, it’s our goal to be a sounding board for companies to pilot innovative healthcare technology.

From a programming standpoint, we recently rolled out our BFF Program, which is based on the Best Friends™ Approach to Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care. We’re also excited about programs like our Trilogy Travel Club and Live a Dream. You don’t see other providers offering seniors the chance to take all-expenses-paid trips, or to fulfill dreams like skydiving. We’re proud to be an industry leader in this respect. Louisville is home to many other innovative healthcare providers, and we look forward to working together to find solutions to the challenges we all face.

Kiel Dowlin, President, Family Directed – HomeHero

Launching the company in Louisville wasn’t by accident – it was a strategic choice. I personally relocated from New York City to launch the company in Louisville. We saw tremendous opportunity working with nationally recognized leaders in lifelong wellness and aging care who are either headquartered or have a significant presence here. I also see the emerging startup ecosystem in Louisville as a distinct advantage.

We must continue to foster entrepreneurship and develop talent that will be tomorrow’s industry leaders. This spring we participated in the first annual CareTech Pitch event sponsored by the Louisville Healthcare CEO Council. For us, it’s not just about sharing our innovative approach to in-home care but sharing what Louisville has to offer and what can be accomplished here. I’m also excited to mention that we’re adding two technology employees – one from California and another from Connecticut. This isn’t just our win but a win for the city. We will certainly continue to support the community.

Patrick Henshaw, CEO, LEAP

LEAP’s biggest strength is our active network of partners, collaborators and resources. In fact, one power-house partner is the Louisville Healthcare CEO Council (LHCC), which is composed of twelve healthcare industry titans, collectively representing over 375,000 employees and $90 billion in revenue. These leaders leverage their collective strength and assets to solve important problems in healthcare aging innovation.

For example, LHCC, in conjunction with Louisville Business First, hosted Aging Innovation convening to explore how it will drive Louisville’s economic future. If you’re an innovator in the healthcare aging innovation space, Louisville has the customers, the expertise, and the capital you need to build and grow your business.

 Phil Marshall, President and CEO, Hosparus Health

Hosparus Health is contributing to making Louisville the epicenter of aging innovation by aligning our services to provide palliative, hospice and grief counseling care to our patients within their homes, and partnering with other providers to better serve individuals and families facing advanced illness.

Our disease-specific programs, such as our heart program, Heart Connect, for individuals afflicted with heart disease or congestive heart failure, are leveraging best practices to create more tailored care plans and support for managing chronic illness.

We are working with payers and other providers on identifying advanced illness populations who stand to benefit from earlier engagement, and our ability to manage their care in the home helps reduce rehospitalizations which often leads to lower costs and better outcomes. We are also expanding our telehealth capabilities through TapCloud and currently implementing a new electronic medical records (EMR) system, which will provide us with more comprehensive data and information to help guide our innovation into the future.

As chair of the National Partnership for Hospice Innovation (NPHI), Hosparus Health is helping lead the way on innovation at the national level, and our participation in the Louisville Healthcare CEO Council allows us to partner with other industry stakeholders to strengthen and grow our local healthcare entrepreneurial community.

As the epicenter of aging innovation, our local entrepreneurs will be vital to maintaining this moniker, so we often invite local entrepreneurial companies into our organization to meet with senior leadership to share their story and share ideas on where we must be looking next. I would encourage others to consider opening their doors, too.

Arif Nazir, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Signature HealthCARE

Signature has been the torchbearer of innovation in the post-acute and long-term care setting. Our focus on new approaches to aging care has been inspirational to other organizations.

An excellent example is our partnership with the TimeSlips organization through which we are bringing theatrical performances and other arts in residents’ lives in our nursing homes. This project is redefining an important role seniors and nursing homes can play in the communities.

Signature HealthCARE has also been the founding partner in many important initiatives in Louisville including the Louisville Innovation Summit, the Thrive Center and our partnership in the Converge conference.

Signature has invested in efforts to bring competitors together to create a needed sense of collaboration among many healthcare companies in Louisville. The efforts are now paying dividends as Louisville is rapidly rising in the ranks of most innovative aging hubs in the country.


Medical News: How are aging care companies contributing in making Louisville the epicenter of aging innovation?


Dianne Timmering, Healthcare Leader, Strategist, American Journalist, Entrepreneur

Hugely. First, they’re contributing by getting together; it was a herculean success to get them in the same room of collaboration and they did that themselves. Of course, the economic and demographic currents of change and government mandates of vertical and horizontal integrations didn’t hurt as a driving force to co-create amongst these giants of healthcare who in the end compete less against each other, instead needing the other to survive.

In fact, the Council members represent the entire spectrum of care delivery, some taking risks in the skilled nursing and rehab space, and others scooping up home health volume to meet anticipated overflow of demand, the Big 12 almost aligning themselves like on a Darwinian path of natural selection, or through the maneuvering hand of God, they are one BigCo—a $90 billion corporate behemoth in totality—all parts to a healthcare whole from beginning to end – hospital, post-acute, rehab, home health, hospice, payer, provider and even educator and workforce recruiter, and ready to take on and lead this in-coming $8 trillion aging new economy, easily the size of its own country.

There is an opportunity to rewrite aging care through this aging innovative portal—a chance to create the blueprint for care delivery across the spectrum, meeting gaps and pain points, healing along the way while driving state and federal reimbursement change, policy enhancements, incentive realignments, addressing those challenges and solving for other payer issues as well. Finite dollars of cost force financial solutions and perhaps the most unique revenue-based innovations like the boiling power of blockchain.

Where care delivery was once isolated by segment, it is now a collaborative sector represented by the Council and its leadership. The entire continuum of care is represented in our city. No other city has that kind of density. If we do this right, as the only high density aging corporate headquarters in the country, we can be the aging epicenter for the world, and where other notable hubs can plug into. Hubs like the healthcare management hub of Nashville, the bio-science hub of Indianapolis, and the aging lab in Boston, can all join us as critical parts of the engine to meet this global turning point.


Medical News: What are the biggest challenges to being innovative?


Leigh Ann Barney, CEO, Trilogy Health Services

We work in a highly regulated industry, so there are challenges that come with that. Offering innovative services usually comes at a higher cost, so we also need to ensure that we are reimbursed for the level of care we provide. Lastly, being innovative creates change and it is extremely important that we continue to invest resources in the fundamentals of our business – excellent healthcare services, superior customer services, and investing in our employees.

Kiel Dowlin, President, Family Directed – HomeHero

Execution. There is a lot of talk around innovation but breaking through the noise and executing on impactful product development is a constant challenge for everyone.

There are two types of entrepreneurs: Disruptive innovators and iterative innovators. Disruptive innovators approach problems by completely throwing everything out the window and starting from scratch – truly embodying the “move fast and break everything” motto. They want to disrupt, revolutionize, or completely change how we think about healthcare.

And yes, healthcare needs disruption. However, this disruption needs to be done through iterative innovation. The industry needs humble entrepreneurs who understand why the system is the way it is and the complexities of healthcare.

My advice is always start slow, find the innovation in the current workflow, and build that into something disruptive. Healthcare innovation is hard and offers few shortcuts. Respect the industry and slowly redefine it.

Patrick Henshaw, CEO, LEAP

Change. That is the only challenge when being innovative because everything else, from the way you think to how you approach problem solving, revolves around that factor. In addition, change often makes stakeholders uncomfortable so you must manage relationships and expectations beyond those who you work with daily.

Phil Marshall, President and CEO, Hosparus Health

The biggest challenges in being innovative relate to the disruption it causes those delivering care (e.g. change is often difficult); the financial investment it takes to build a new system; the adoption rate by patients and families; workforce availability and access to high-caliber talent; and, the scalability of the innovation.

Despite these challenges, however, Hosparus Health embraces and promotes innovation to continually find ways to maintain high quality care, and improve service delivery, in support of patients and family caregivers.

Arif Nazir, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Signature HealthCARE

Everyone loves using the phrase innovation but being innovative requires a lot of resolve and commitment. Particularly, in healthcare the environment is not conducive to new ideas as stern regulatory frameworks sometimes disincentivize thinking outside the box.

Moreover, innovative approaches require leadership to be comfortable with taking on risk as many innovative strategies have high risk of failure. One must be comfortable with failure and have systems to learn from failures. Now these are tough asks from post-acute organizations that have recently been struggling due to the ongoing evolution in healthcare. But I am thrilled that with Signature HealthCARE’s sheer focus on innovation as a core strategy, we have had been very successful in leading and implementing many innovative ideas in the post-acute healthcare setting.

Dianne Timmering, Healthcare Leader, Strategist, American Journalist, Entrepreneur

Money is a big one, and defining what innovation is as I referenced above. Workers—another obvious barrier. And the right ones—equipped and armed with the skill sets needed.

In fact, I am thinking about going back to MIT for a two-month course on AI to better understand and master this brave new world. Encouraging more 50-year-old executives and employees who may want to transition their careers into this healthcare workforce of technology and innovation is a conversation few are having. But we need to and create the pathways for them to flourish with this new and relevant purpose. I have never understood the term retirement. It does may me shiver.

Corporate risk-taking as well. Most corporate cultures may talk about the superficiality of innovation but may not welcome it into their culture. Employees often try to be natural problem-solvers and not every problem or opportunity can be solved internally. Historically companies don’t risk-take or think they can find an operational solution which often is simply not the case. Ironically, risk-taking barriers in healthcare may be the worst, often less of an option because of minimized, even inverted operating margins.

Pilot beta testing ground sites are also desperately needed with research institutional alignment and efficacy. It’s not just the big 12 for example around the Council fire who can open their doors to “try” on innovations based on corporate strategy, but there is an opportunity for the small and medium size to come to the table as well and open up to the power of testing and innovation for problem solving. Incorporating innovative pursuits into the annualized budgets is a mode of thinking we corporately must consider as well. Like we budget for not-for-profit donations, why not innovative pilots—three a year, for example!

Lastly, some would say we’ve tried this before, but I think every good effort and intent is why we are posed and position to be the aging care ground zero for the world. There are many great organizations—public and private—and people who make up the mosaic of entrepreneurial innovation in our great city. We all play a role—how we get to that reality will depend on how all the parts work together.

Once we really define what this innovation aging economy is worth beyond the billions it is forecasted to be and really look at financial gain, economic development and dollar velocity of impact—the stakes will be even clearer and maybe even force more collaboration where those bumps are smoothed. Forget the old wineskin and put on a new one, proverbially speaking.