Senior living and technology. The relationship between the two spaces is somewhat new, seemingly always evolving—and not just care-centric anymore.
“It’s really easy to silo [senior living] technology and just talk about quality of care,” said Chris Guay, the founder, president and CEO of Nashville, Tennessee-based Vitality Senior Living. “It’s really about quality of life.”
A panel of experts, including Guay, dove deeply into the topic of technology adoption in senior living at the 2016 Senior Housing News Chicago Summit on July 14. The takeaways? Don’t be afraid to spend the money on technology that betters the lives of residents and staff—but make sure you have the infrastructure first.
Getting priorities straight
Despite how critical the right technology can be when it comes to improving the lives of senior living residents and staff, the industry has traditionally been a slow technology adopter.
Some communities, for example, prioritize other items over new technology and wind up spending money that, in the long run, won’t prepare the communities for the future, suggested panel moderator Ginna Baik, senior care strategist at CDW Healthcare.
Some communities, for instance, may think they need a beautiful fountain that costs $25,000, or beautiful landscaping—and they prioritize those costs over any sort of technology implementation.
“These communities think, ‘well, we should probably get WiFi, but get the cheapest one possible,’” Baik said.
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When it comes to actually picking the right technology, it’s key to take your time—perhaps even to pilot several different technologies before committing to them.
“I love pilots,” Guay said. “I love piloting anything.”
After all, not every technology will be the right fit for every community—that’s why it’s important to practice due diligence when shopping for solutions, the panelists agreed. Guay, for instance, likened the process of choosing senior living technology to dating.
“Play hard to get and don’t fall in love too fast,” he advised.
Infrastructure is key
“It’s not just about the software, that’s just a piece of it,” Baik explained. Communities also must guarantee they have sufficient infrastructure in place to support any technology they purchase. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how perfect a technology is for a particular community—if a community can’t support it, they can’t use it.
“Ask yourself: do you have an infrastructure that can handle the growth to tomorrow?” Guay advised. And in terms of upgrading infrastructure, it’s better to go overboard than to underestimate how many changes need to be made.
“If you don’t have the infrastructure to run the technology, it’s not worth the equipment costs you put into it,” Guay said. “Always overkill on the infrastructure side.”
The senior living industry hasn’t typically been on the forefront of technology innovation—and that’s becoming more and more clear to some operators growing their companies.
“As we acquire communities, we find that infrastructure is one of the first things that’s neglected,” panelist Marc Gaber, LCS’ chief information officer, said.
Not all hope is lost, however.
“There’s an opportunity,” Guay explained. “Because we’re behind [as an industry], we can get ahead. I think we can catch up quicker than people give us credit or expect us to.”
Written by Mary Kate Nelson