Senior Living Adopting Tech, But ‘Tremendous Opportunity’ Remains

Roughly three-quarters of the 150 largest nonprofit senior living providers are embracing technology advances, such as electronic medical/health records (EMR/EHR) and electronic point of care documentation systems, according to the LeadingAge Ziegler (LZ) 150, an annual compilation of providers.

But there’s still much work to be done, say experts who collected and analyzed the data on tech adoption this year.

This year’s technology adoption report — previously issued as an addendum to the LZ 100 — was integrated into the LZ 150, and shows promising results for an industry that’s sometimes thought to be slow to adopt new tech, though with room to expand in tech.


Among the results: 76.6% of providers are using electronic point of care or point of service documentation systems; 74.7% are using EMR/EHR technology; 75.2% have adopted user-activated emergency response systems; and 73.1% have implemented access control or wander management systems.

“The promising news is that we’ve seen significant growth over the past few years in the number of organizations implementing EHR technology, which is foundational and key to better documentation, care and coordination,” said Majd Alwan, senior vice president of technology at LeadingAge and executive director of the LeadingAge Center for Aging Services Technology (CAST), in a statement.

By expanding the LZ 100 to include 50 additional communities which are smaller and have, presumably, smaller revenues and budgets, it would seem logical that there might be a dip in the level of tech adoption, Lisa McCracken, senior vice president of Senior Living Research and Development at Ziegler, tells SHN.


However, there have been relatively small changes in most areas, particularly in the adoption of EMR/EHR technology.

“We didn’t see a dramatic decline across the key areas such as electronic health records and point-of-sale/contact technologies,” McCracken says. “This suggests that the senior living organizations are committed to these key technological advancements, regardless of their size.”

Last year, about the same percentage (three-quarters) of providers had adopted EMR/EHR technology as those in the LZ 150, but 83% reported utilizing point-of-care tech, a 6.4% higher adoption rate than the LZ 150 reported this year.

Additionally, the industry still lags in the area of health and wellness monitoring technologies. While 57.8% have adopted physical exercise and rehabilitation tech, only 21.2% have medication monitoring technologies. Far less — 7.6% — have telecare, telemonitoring or behavioral monitoring tech, and even less (4.1%)  boast telehealth or remote patient monitoring.

“I was expecting and hoping to see higher adoption of telehealth and remote patient monitoring technologies than 4%, given the value of these technologies in stabilizing patients recently discharged from hospitals to prevent re-admissions, as well as managing chronic conditions to reduce admissions in the first place,” Alwan tells SHN. “But then again, I am not totally surprised because the payment and reimbursement models are not conducive unless you have a partnership with the hospital, ACO or bundled payment model, which very few organizations have in place.”

Perhaps the biggest opportunity, though, lies not only in the technology that is adopted, but in how it’s used.

“We think that there is tremendous opportunity in initiatives that take technology adoption a step further to technology coordination,” McCracken says. “Specifically, that means information sharing across providers and partners. As a health care sector overall, not just in aging services, there is room for growth with this.”

Written by Emily Study

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