Why Slow Tech Adoption Should Not Embarrass Senior Living

Senior living, as an industry, may have been slow to adopt technology—but organizations should make a plan to remedy the situation and stick to it, instead of feeling bad about it.

That’s according to a discussion that took place during the recent 2016 Senior Housing News Chicago Summit, where expert panelists shared their best advice for successfully approaching and adopting senior living technology.

Some takeaways? Don’t rush technology-related decisions; understand that senior living has what technology companies want; and create and nurture lasting technology partnerships.

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Here are some words of wisdom from seasoned senior living leaders:

Travis Palmquist, Vice President and General Manager Senior Living at PointClickCare:

“People don’t need to feel bad about slower adoption of technology. I don’t think the industry has anything it needs to hide its head about. A proverbial regulatory gun to the head pushed skilled nursing operators to adopt technology—but when you’re talking about a private-pay market, with fewer government reimbursement pressures, it’s going to be different.

“Figure out where to start. Put together a strategy. Think in terms of a walk, run, fly approach. Maybe you’re ready to go fly tomorrow, you’re ready to integrate with hospitals, pharmacies and labs—maybe you’re in that spot. But you can start small, and you can get yourself on a path to where ultimately where you want to be.”

Chet Phillips, Chief Information Officer at Enlivant:

“Try to eliminate a lot of the baggage from the community. We’ve tried to centralize a lot of things so that any incremental change will be felt across all 180 of our executive directors and our staff. We thought that that was very beneficial.

It’s kind of cliche, but you can’t manage what you can’t measure. We put together a business intelligence system that really shines a light on everything that’s going on. And sometimes we get compliance through embarrassment, or compliance through awareness. It’s two different ways of approaching a core process redesign, or a turnaround.

We’re trying to take things off of the plates of the people at the community because we know that if you’re an executive director, oftentimes you’re running around with your hair on fire. You’re either good or bad at that position based on how you can manage and prioritize. By taking things and moving things away that are somewhat mundane, we think that’s a recipe for success.”

Chris Guay, founder, President and CEO at Vitality Senior Living:

“I would start with an honest assessment of where your organization is. Be honest. And don’t just sit with your senior executive team in an office and decide where it is. Talk to the folks out in the communities. Find out where you’re doing well, where you’re short, and create a plan that addresses that.

When choosing technology, don’t jump in the water full force. Maybe try to put a of couple toes in … Anything I’ve ever gotten into, if we invested more time, more energy, more resources on the front end, we’ve ended up with a long-term better result.

There’s a lot of companies now that are bringing tech to this indursty and they’re telling you why they’re the best and how they’re going to help you out. It’s really easy to get caught up in that. Take your time. [Senior living companies] are an incredible opportunity for a lot of tech companies. All of us have thousands of people that we’re taking care of, that are workng for us and that are interacting with our communities. There’s an incredible amount of data and opportunities for tech companies.

[Senior living companies] can slow down and hold technology companies accountable for what they can deliver. Take your time. Don’t rush into any decision.”

Marc Gaber, Chief Information Officer at Life Care Services (LCS):

“Develop those partnerships with technology companies, and leverage those partnerships. [Senior living organizations] are sitting on a very valuable asset in every meaning of the word… [Tech companies] are going to come to us. It’s true. We have what they want, and let’s work together with them.”

Written by Mary Kate Nelson

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