Senior living providers should consider several factors when choosing a technology vendor for their community in light of recent vendor exits from the senior care space. One of those exits was a smaller operation, the other under the umbrella of a huge corporation, suggesting that dedication to the market and long-term stability may top the list.
In July, senior care technology provider EmFinders suspended its operations and exited the emergency locator and response business. Then, last week, 3M announced it was discontinuing its Resident Monitoring product line, although it will continue to provide service, support, and replacement parts to existing customers through the rest of 2013—and perhaps longer, according to Jon Ross, general manager at 3M Resident Monitoring.
“We’re engaged in conversation with potential partners that would enable us to further that support beyond 2013,” he told SHN. “It’s something we’re still trying to finalize.”
3M acquired Attenti Holdings in September 2010 in a transaction that included subsidiary HomeFree’s wireless monitoring products. This summer, though, 3M decided to “focus on its core competencies,” Ross says, and resident monitoring was not one of them.
The two exits from the senior care technology market are not necessarily related, and they’re not indicative of a larger trend, says Ross. When attending LeadingAge’s annual conference, held last week in Denver, he noticed several new companies had entered the space. “It’s not so much that people are wanting to get out of the business; it’s that 3M made a decision to focus [elsewhere],” he emphasized.
“We’ve talked to prospects time and time again that get nervous doing business with a small company for fear it’ll go out of business,” says Todd Hudgins, vice president of business development at Tel-Tron. “You see something like [the 3M exit]—no matter the reason—and see that even though it’s a big company, sometimes they close their doors too.”
Most providers in the space all provide the same basic functionalities as part of their platform, Hudgins acknowledges. The key, he says, is getting to know the company behind the products and the way they run their service platform.
There’s more to consider than just the technology itself when deciding to implement a program or invest in technology, says Jim Pursley, vice president of sales and marketing at Intel-GE Care Innovations.
“[The product] has to be sound. It has to be viable. And beyond that, it’s also about the company—their values, their people, their philosophy on customer service,” he says. “That’s not to be underestimated in importance.”
When senior living providers make purchase decisions for technology, they need to consider the financial strength of the company and how long it’s been around, Ross says. It’s important for operators to do “extra” due diligence on technology vendors to make sure they’re going to be in the business long-term.
Like Ross, Hudgins agrees that the market for senior care technology products is increasing, not shrinking. However, the industry is at the “tail end of a few tough years,” he says, and it may be difficult for some smaller companies to have the resources to grow at this point.
“Pick a company that’s small enough that you can get to know the senior leadership, understand their culture, and their values,” Hudgins says. “When choosing a vendor, it’s important to know what their vision is. There may be a tell-tale sign, whether it’s how long the business has been open, or what their plans are for the future.”
Ideally, a technology vendor partner would have both the resources and stability of a large company and the senior care industry focus of many smaller companies, along with a clear, long-term dedication to the market, says Pursley.
One way to measure long-term dedication to the senior care market is to assess whether other products offered by the vendor or the vendor’s parent company are complementary in nature.
“We made the decision to [discontinue one of our product lines] that didn’t feel complementary to the rest of our portfolio, because over time, that could become a challenge,” Pursley says. “We’re doubling down on senior housing and healthcare, and are focusing on the aging population to try to drive innovative change in that area.”
Ultimately, all three technology providers agree that the current market trend is one of growth.
“A lot of folks entering the markets see what we see: the demographics, and the increasingly important role of senior housing and care in the broader healthcare continuum,” says Pursley. “With the formation of Accountable Care Organizations, the impact of the Affordable Care Act, and the need to care for our seniors in less acute environments, the role of senior housing is increasing.”
Written by Alyssa Gerace