Technology can serve a multi-purpose role in senior living communities benefiting providers, families, and health systems as a way to provide a better quality of care, maintain occupancy, age in place, save money, and—perhaps most important of all—allow the industry to participate in the managed care movement.
“We’re seeing that providers are beginning to recognize that what people want to buy is independence,” says Brian Bischoff, the CEO of aging services technology provider Healthsense. By using different service packages that employ technology, providers can help existing residents maintain independence, age in place, and stay out of the hospital.
It costs more money for residents to move into higher levels of care, and families are starting to realize that, he says. For providers who have dual concerns of providing the best possible quality of care and experience for their residents, but who also need to consider the business perspective, using technology can help retain residents in a community or in a certain level of care, rather than lose them to a more acute setting.
Finding ways to establish new revenue streams can be done for communities that consciously look for ways to integrate technology into their workflow, Bischoff says.
“Where we’ve seen the best success are the communities that make a specific effort to think through and re-evaluate what they’re doing to build technology and apply it to their model,” he says.
A few months ago, the Minneapolis Star Tribune profiled Kingsway Senior Living, a Minnesota community that came up with service bundles using Healthsense technology that its residents could opt to buy.
It took a lot of thought, says Bischoff, but the community’s residents and their families have been very pleased with the results—as has been the community itself.
Service bundles could reflect varying levels of acuity: Healthy, fully-functional seniors; less-functional seniors who may need some help with activities of daily living (ADLs); seniors who are at some risk and need help with more ADLs, and seniors who are at eminent risk of falls and other injuries.
Using technology, it’s possible to create a service package depending on specific needs, says Bischoff. For lower-level needs, services could include voice technology for reminders about certain activities, plans, and medications, or check-in calls each morning and night. As needs increase, the package could include a PERS-plus system with pull cords for help, or sensors scattered around the apartment that record automatic check-ins.
The service package could incrementally include glucometers, scales, or blood pressure monitors to monitor older populations with chronic diseases, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Technology can also be used to pattern changes in living habits, from sleeping to toileting to eating—general activities that can be indicative of certain conditions, Bischoff continues.
“There’s a huge cost difference between catching a urinary tract infection early and getting the antiobiotic, versus someone who becomes septic, falls, and is hospitalized,” he says, adding it could be a $150,000 difference between a best case and worst case scenario.
It all comes down to a thesis of observation, action, and outcome—employing technology to gather data than can be analyzed and used to treat or prevent possible issues. This could become increasingly important in a managed healthcare model, and the senior living industry, says Bischoff, is beginning to realize the role it can play in the continuum of senior care.
“If you think about a reimbursement model going forward, [where] you’re running an assisted living community and employing the best senior care technology for the people in your building—if you find out your resident is headed toward a UTI on day one, your admission rates to the hospital down the street are going to be much lower,” he says. “And, you might be able to get a portion of the shared savings [in an ACO model] because you do a better job of managing the care of people in your building.”
Written by Alyssa Gerace