Arbors uses technology, innovation to stay relevant in assisted-living sector
Arbors of Hop Brook, Vernon Manor Health Care Center and Vernon Manor Health Care Center under the Umbrella name of Arbors of Hop Brook, won 1st Place in the Large Employer Category (200+ Employees) in the Hartford Family Business Journal Awards. These awards recognize outstanding acheivements amoungst family-owned businesses; it honor companies that had particularly strong successes by completing expansions, growing revenues, adding employees or fulfilling major projects while still staying rooted in thier traditions. The winners are determined by a panel of judges from Klingberg Family Centers, LootScout and UConn School of Business. Brian Liistro, Partner of Arbors of Hop Brook, accepted the award on the behalf of the facilities at the ceremony on October 19th at Casa Mia at The Hawthorn in Berlin.
Industry: Skilled nursing and continuing-care retirement
Year Founded: 1966
Founder: Helen Liistro and Paul G. Liistro
Generation Currently Running Company: Second
No. of Full-Time Employees: 226 (Including two partners)
No. of Part-Time Employees: 220
Family Members Currently Employed at Company: Paul T. Liistro, Managing Partner and Brian Liistro, Managing Partner (Brothers)
Company Websites: www.arborsct.com; www.manchestermanorct.com; www.vernonmanorct.com
When an Arbors of Hop Brook resident needs a ride to a dentist or doctor’s appointment, they simply call an Arbors staff member, who arranges for an Uber driver to come get them.
Booking a ride with the popular driver-for-hire service requires some basic technological know-how — customers must first own a smartphone and then download an app to access and pay for the service online. But at the Arbors assisted-living facility, residents just hit autodial on a cell phone provided by the staff, and the transportation plans are taken care of, said Paul Liistro, co-owner and CEO of Arbors of Hop Brook LC.
“The technology of having Uber has given our residents extraordinary flexibility,” said Liistro, adding residents seem to prefer the service to costlier taxis. “All of a sudden they are free to go wherever they want.”
Uber is just one way the family-owned,, long-term care provider is leveraging technology to improve the lives of residents, whether it’s at Arbors or at the company’s two skilled-nursing homes, Vernon Manor and Vernon Manor.
From an electronic record-keeping system that keeps better track of patients’ health, to a high-tech plasma airborne infection control system to reduce the spread of disease, to state-of-the-art medical equipment, the company has led Connecticut in introducing the latest in technology, Liistro said.
“Our skilled-nursing facilities are probably some of the most technologically sophisticated in the state,” said Liistro, a second-generation owner who runs the company with his brother, Brian. “There are [nursing homes] that are using some of the things we have. No one is using all of the things we have.”
Liistro’s extended family has ties to Connecticut’s long-term care industry dating back to the 1950s. His parents opened Vernon Manor in 1966 and Vernon Manor the following decade, in 1977. His mother’s five siblings were all in the nursing-home business as well.
“At one point in time, had we been one company, we would have owned 20 percent of the nursing homes in Connecticut,” Liistro said.
The family opened Arbors, also based in Manchester, in 1988, to provide a place for older residents who still wanted to be independent, but needed help with some everyday tasks. If an Arbors resident eventually needs more advanced medical care, they have access to Vernon Manor next door.
The company has a record of quality, with both Vernon and Vernon Manors earning five-star ratings on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ website, a designation, according to Liistro, that is earned by only 20 percent of the nation’s 15,000 nursing homes.
Billy Nelson, administrator for the 126-bed Vernon Manor, said he’s worked at bigger corporate-owned nursing homes around the country, and none measure up to those run by the Liistro family. Nelson served as administrator of the 120-bed Vernon Manor from 2003-2007 and, after working at other nursing homes, returned to the company in Aug. 2015.
“I came back because I enjoyed working for a family-run business,” said Nelson. “We don’t wait for anything. If an air conditioning unit breaks, it’s fixed tomorrow.”
While the delivery of long-term care has changed dramatically since his family began in the business, Liistro said the company is changing with the times. In the last few years, a state and federal push to provide more care in home- and community-based settings has led to a string of nursing-home bankruptcies and closings.
Liistro said his company has weathered the storm by changing its business model to focus more on short-term care. The company recently completed $3.5 million in renovations at each of its skilled-nursing facilities, adding three new short-term rehabilitation wings with larger, modern rooms and new furniture, including $2,000 adjustable beds. It also added the latest in diagnostic equipment, such as new heart-monitoring machines, a bladder scanner and Doppler ultrasound.
The renovation also included additional private rooms in response to patient demand. If a patient requests a private room and all are full, the nursing home now puts patient names on an “upgrade list.” Because of quick turnover in the rehabilitation wing, the company is usually able to accommodate the requests, Liistro said.
“I always describe what we do as a caring for people business,” said Liistro. “You’ve got to have a passion for it because you’re improving people’s lives in a time of greatest need.”