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Brookdale CEO Shares Industry Response to COVID-19

Cindy Baier

Address Part of Council's Health Care Brass Tacks Series

On August 13, the Nashville Health Care Council hosted an online member discussion with Cindy Baier, president and CEO of the country's largest senior living company, Brookdale Senior Living Inc. The discussion was part of the Council's ongoing Health Care Brass Tacks series.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the senior living industry has been in the media spotlight both for struggles in managing COVID-19 outbreaks and for 'above and beyond' efforts to serve vulnerable residents while trying to prevent spread of the virus. Baier spoke about her company's strategy to manage the pandemic, prevalent misconceptions of the senior living industry, the importance of diversity in leadership and her outlook for the future.

In her earnings call earlier in the week, Baier had shared the good news that at the end of July, less than 1 percent of Brookdale residents had COVID-19 positive results, a significant accomplishment as the company has the ability to care for up to 65,000 community residents and also serves 17,000 consumers in home care and hospice across 44 states. She explained her strategy from the beginning of the pandemic was to learn as much as they could about the virus and move quickly against the possibility of outbreaks.

"We essentially had to change our business model overnight. In addition to widespread testing of our staff and residents, we had to eliminate large group dining and outings and close to visitors. This meant changing the use of the interior of our buildings to allow proper quarantining as needed and implementing new technologies," Baier said. "I'm proud of our ability to be a learning organization, that we were able to digest information and translate it into operations swiftly."

Since the pandemic began, the entire healthcare industry, including senior living, made a dramatic shift to telehealth in order to limit exposure while still providing essential care. Baier said new protocols were needed due to the pandemic. For example, Brookdale facilities needed to manage more healthcare conditions in-house rather than having patients receive care in hospitals.

Baier also spoke to another timely topic - diversity in healthcare leadership. She has led the charge in her own company and now has a board made up of 44 percent women and has welcomed Brookdale's first African American board member. Additionally, Baier has reached gender parity on her management team.

"Diverse companies perform better. I don't believe in diversity for diversity's sake, but when you have a diverse slate of job candidates for example, you are getting the best pool," she said. "What's easier in the short term is not the easiest in the long term. So, I would advise leaders to demand a diverse slate when hiring for a leadership role. It may take longer to find those candidates, but it is worth it."

The ongoing Health Care Brass Tacks virtual series features prominent Nashville Health Care Council board members and CEOs, offering inside perspectives on the most pertinent aspects of healthcare today.


Nashville Health Care Council

Brookdale Senior Living


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Brookdale Senior Living, Cindy Baier, COVID-19, Diverse Leadership, Health Care Brass Tacks, Nashville Health Care Council
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