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Monitoring technologies can help identify some of the leading causes of premature discharge from senior living communities, and some providers are seeing a noticeable—and relatively speedy—return on investment after installing smart sensor technology platforms.
As aging in place trends continue and seniors put off moves into designated senior living communities, turnover times are shortening.
“Statistics show residents are staying 12-18 months and then turning over, rather than the previous 18-24 months,” says Traci Bild, president and founder of Bild & Company, a consulting firm that specializes in senior housing sales and marketing. She says some of her clients have reported resident stays averaging an even shorter eight to twelve months, compared to a pre-economic downturn range that was closer to three years.
“The revenue per resident has dramatically decreased,” she says.
Older residents are often accompanied by higher care needs and higher risk of hospitalization. And once they go to the hospital, their health is more likely to spiral downward, forcing moves into different levels of care.
Falls, infections, or other age-related afflictions often impede providers’ efforts to close the “back door” and prevent move-outs, but monitoring and smart sensor technology can help prevent acceleration to a revolving door.
“If you’re able to anticipate those sooner and adjust staffing models so they provide the service at the right time, to the right person, then you find some pretty significant results,” says Bryce Porter, Senior Living Manager at Care Innovations, an Intel-GE collaboration. “We’ve seen one case study where the increase in length of stay was over 63%. It’s largely being able to identify these trends before some more significant accidents or injuries take place.”
In the five years Porter has been working with senior living organizations to implement smart sensor technology, he says the trend has been for companies to realize a positive return on investment about two to three years into deployment.
Eskaton, a California-based non-profit senior living provider of independent living, assisted living, and memory care implemented a Care Innovations QuietCare pilot program in one building in 2009 before moving forward with a 2013 roll-out to eight more buildings. The organization saw a positive return on investment in two years.
“We calculated that if two people move into a community based on having QuietCare as a market differentiator, we’ll have already recouped the costs [of installing the platform in that community,” says Sheri Peifer, senior vice president of Innovation and Strategic Development at Eskaton. “We want to make sure we’re positioning ourselves and doing all of the appropriate monitoring and interventions we can to help facilitate a longer, more well resident stay, and also look at how our customer service can be enhanced.”
Using the platform, Eskaton can use resident reports that are generated based on collected data to share with families and work with healthcare partners in preventing readmissions.
“In memory care, we noticed that the system has been very advantageous to help us with individuals who have challenges related to wandering or agitation,” Peifer says. “Or, if we’re concerned about bathroom usage, we’re able to put on a night motion sensor and monitor that more closely.”
Eskaton is always searching for ways to elongate resident stays, decrease emergency room visits, and decrease falls, says Peifer, and lately has especially honed in on reducing hospital readmissions, particularly on the skilled nursing and rehabilitation side.
“With people being discharged more quickly to their homes—including to [apartments in] assisted living—we’re being held more accountable to ourselves and our healthcare partners to drive down that readmission rate,” she says. “At our care centers, we have about a 12% readmission rate, compared to a national rate of about 24%.”
The platform has enabled Eskaton to see emergent conditions and react in a more timely way. Instead of sending residents to emergency rooms after an infection has become full-blown, communities can intervene in a timely manner to prevent what could become a higher level of need.
While deploying these types of monitoring platforms aren’t an industry standard quite yet, it wasn’t until the 1960s that pull-cords in senior care were standardized, Peifer points out. The call-system concept just needs to be brought into the 21st century.
One of the biggest roadblocks to larger-scale or even initial implementation of senior care technology is status quo with companies set in their ways, says Porter, but they need “the ability to look for innovative ways to improve performance results”—and technology can help.
Written by Alyssa Gerace